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Griffith Observatory: A Foundation for Stargazing

When David Primes was in Junior High, he fell in love with astronomy. It’s a passion that blossomed beyond the classroom, visiting Griffith Observatory and feasting on the works of writers like Robert Heinlein. Heinlein also became a young David’s portal into the world of science fiction…but that’s another story.


Accounting Firm GIves Back to Griffith Observatory

David was that kid who got to school early and when he did, the science teacher let him use the school telescope to pursue his passions. Which is pretty much what happened decades later when he went to a behind-the-scenes event at the Griffith Observatory. As he stepped into the old Planetarium, David looked in on a man in the control room and turned to his wife to say, “Do you know what I would have given to be this close to these controls when I was a kid?”


The scientist at the controls overheard and invited David in to play. That was the last David’s wife saw of him for a couple of hours.


The Griffith Observatory is one of the most recognizable, iconic buildings in Los Angeles. As David shared recently, Dr. Krupp, the Executive Director of the Observatory, refers to it as, “The hood ornament of LA.”


Griffith Observatory is Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos and has been ever since it opened in 1935. It has become so popular over the years that more people have looked through Griffith Observatory’s telescope than any other telescope on Earth. In addition, its iconic façade has been featured in more than 300 films and television shows. The Observatory is a Los Angeles landmark and a worldwide tourist destination for over a million visitors a year.


Owned by the City of Los Angeles, the Observatory’s mission is to, “…inspires everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky.” This mission is realized in the exhibit halls and the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and each night as visitors gaze at the cosmos with their own eyes through the historical 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope or the lawn telescopes that are laid out for their use.


As for David, after that visit of a lifetime when he was invited into the Planetarium control room, it wasn’t long before he joined the Board as Treasurer during the time of the Observatory’s $93 million renovation. It was also a time when Sobul, Primes & Schenkel’s business management practice was gathering steam, which made it perfect timing to help the Observatory with all of its business and accounting needs, which was provided at a friendly rate in the spirit of “Friends of the Observatory,” who’s work is to ensure that Griffith Observatory has the resources to “Inspire the Future, One Imagination at a Time.”


As you’ll all recall from your 5th grade astronomy class, one astronomical unit (the distance from the Earth to the Sun) is approximately 93 million miles. It was quite a coincidence then that the renovation of the iconic Griffith Observatory cost $93 million.


On top of all of the typical accounting needs of an organization of this type, Sobul, Primes & Schenkel makes sure to provide internal controls and record keeping to satisfy the outside audits required by a property owned and operated by the city of Los Angeles.


As David moved from Treasurer to President and now Chair, the Observatory has taken on new challenges. As educational funding has been cut, those 5th grade astronomy courses have had their funding cut as well and the Observatory was facing the shutdown of their program that has helped to educate Los Angeles area students for generations.


The response of Friends Of The Observatory has been to support informal science education in much the same way that the young David explored astronomy beyond the classroom. They continue to raise funds to keep the 5th grade program going and to raise additional funds for Bus Scholarships, which helps schools wanting to get their students to the Observatory but cannot afford the transportation.


Friends Of The Observatory is also supporting a new high-resolution show at Samuel Ocean Planetarium that will debut in 2016. As each new challenge comes along, Sobul, Primes & Schenkel has taken care of all aspects of the financial and business side of the Observatory, releasing the scientists and educators to maintain Griffith Observatory as one of the great assets of the City of Los Angeles.


David can still be found often at Griffith Observatory making sure that it is financially solid for light years to come. Sometimes, he even slips into the control room of the Planetarium. It is a childhood dream come true for just another stargazer in the City of Angels.