Class of 1994
Lt. Col. Daniel Polsgrove, Ph.D.
The son of teachers Robert and Barbara Polsgrove, and grandson of stand-out athlete Conley Giddings (ROHS Class of 1938), Dan excelled in school and sports throughout childhood culminating in a distinctive career at Kimball High School. He was the Class of 1994’s salutatorian, a 3-sport athlete serving as team captain four times over 10 varsity seasons in soccer, basketball and baseball, and was voted Best Male Athlete by his classmates. He started at point guard on the hardwood for 2+ seasons, netted over 50 goals on the soccer field over 4 varsity campaigns, helped lead the baseball team to back-to-back conference titles as a second baseman and lead-off batter, and notched the game-ending RBI in legendary coach Frank Clouser’s 500th career victory.
Dan earned an appointment to the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs where he majored in physics, became an expert skier and discovered a new sport incorporating all his athletic talents: ultimate frisbee. He finished in the top 1% academically amongst 950 members of his class, was #1 amongst 25 physics majors and led the USAFA ultimate frisbee team to two consecutive regional championship tournaments and its first top 20 national ranking in school history.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree and commission as a Second Lieutenant upon graduating from USAFA, he earned a Master’s Degree in astronomy from Michigan State University and later a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Minnesota. While on active duty he completed assignments at multiple bases across the country, leading a variety of top secret programs that – according to his annual unclassified officer performance reports - achieved several “historic firsts” in research and development, weapon systems acquisition and military intelligence. He had two stints spanning seven years as a professor at USAFA, winning the Physics Department’s McGrath Award (top new instructor) in 2006 and the Outstanding Academy Educator award in 2015 – the institution’s highest academic honor for faculty members.
During his military career he was also an active contributor to astronomical research focused on observational cosmology, telescope design and exoplanet discovery and characterization. At the time of induction he was leading a team of Air Force scientists seeking evidence of life beyond the solar system, using a globally-distributed array of robotic telescopes in the search for potentially habitable Earth-like exoplanets orbiting the coolest stars in our Galaxy.