Mark Rodeghier has been President and Scientific Director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies since 1986. Born in Hammond, Indiana, in 1953, he earned a B.S. in astrophysics from Indiana University in 1975. After a year of graduate study at the University of Sussex in England, he returned to complete a M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in sociology. His dissertation, Factors Influencing Attitudes Toward Controversial Research: Quantitatively Disentangling the Social from the Scientific, explores the attitudes toward the study of extraterrestrial intelligence by the scientific community. Other publications include numerous articles for IUR and the Journal of UFO Studies, and UFO Reports Involving Vehicle Interference: a Catalog and Data Analysis (Evanston, IL: Center for UFO Studies, 1981).
The following is an interview with Dr. Rodeghier in which he talks about his personal involvement with CUFOS.
When did you become interested in UFOís?
I was very interested since the age of nine. In fact, I had heard about Hynekís work and wrote to him when I was 11 to ask his advice on how to become an astronomer. Because I became interested at such a young age, I never stopped to wonder "why."
Were you also interested in science fiction?
Yes, I read a lot and wrote book reports on books about UFOís. Interest in aliens and space went together; there was not much distinction.
Did you ever think about becoming an astronomer or an astronaut?
Yes, I did my undergraduate degree in astrophysics, but chose to go into sociology rather than continue with astronomy in grad school. Pursuing astronomy as a profession would be difficult due to the lack of job opportunities, and I found my interests changing toward a new direction.
So how did you become involved with CUFOS?
I was aware of Hynek and the Center in Evanston, IL, just over an hoursí drive from where I lived in Indiana. In 1974, when I was 21, my interest in ufology had culminated to the point that, since I was so close, why not get involved with the best?
How did Dr. Hynek greet you?
Not well! (laughs) I had written and called him a couple of times but had received no reply. So my friend Mark and I looked up his teaching schedule at Northwestern and waited on either side of the observatory door, where we flagged him down as he left class. To his credit, he listened and took us seriously, and within the week I was working at the Center. At first, of course, it was all grunt work (which I am still doing 25 years later!). But I immediately started looking through the files.
Were these Project Blue Book files, or was there other information, too?
All the files were mixed together, arranged chronologically. There was no security, so everything was accessible. I began serious study of ufology that Summer. I began to notice that no one had analyzed the cases with UFOís and vehicle interference, so I began studying and cataloging that data in the Summer of 1975. I continued this research while I was in school in England, including working with BUFORA. Returning to the Center in the Summer of 1976, I worked on the project until 1981, focusing on case files and journal articles of vehicle interference from all over the world. Once Iíd find a piece, I would often contact the original author for more information. I also began work at this time on a project with physicist Joe Acetta researching the correlation between UFO sightings and geomagnetic readings.
Did you learn how to interview witnesses from Hynek?
Allen did not have the time to actually train. I did accompany and observe him as he interviewed people. He was a very good listener and interviewed "like a professor," just interested in the facts.
How did your involvement with CUFOS continue?
I started writing articles for IUR and helping with mailings, reading and answering mail, doing a little bit of everything. The Center was a very busy place in the 70ís and early 80ís, with professionals and academics constantly at work. I organized the 1981 CUFOS Conference in Chicago. I began going to Board meetings, which were open for anyone to attend, then became a Board member in 1980. Because of my close association with Allen, and because I was here in Chicago, I was the natural choice for Director when Allen died in 1986. Although he still had a lot of energy at 75, Allen could not effectively run the Center in Chicago when he moved to Scottsdale in 1984. Frankly, I didnít even want to take it on, but when Allen died, how could we not keep the Center going? The pleasure of being Director is that Iím glad Iíve been able to put my stamp on it. Iím proud that I revitalized the Journal for UFO Studies, because the field needs an academic journal. I first asked Michael Swords, and later Stuart Appelle, both university professors, to edit the journal. Iíve been lucky twice picking good people for this job.
When did the Center move from Evanston to its present Chicago location?
The files were moved first to the Glenview home of Sherm Larsen, who had helped start the Center in 1973. In April, 1987, we moved into the Chicago office. At that time, there was such a lack of sightings and interest in the subject that there was no money for any paid staff. For 2 years, George Eberhart and I did everything. Even though we had no other help, we were energized and came in every Saturday to work. By 1988, more money had accumulated and we were able to hire part-time clerical help. Gradually, more volunteers arrived. One reason it took me so long to finish my doctoral degree is because I put so much time into the Center.
What type of reaction do you receive from family, friends and colleagues about your involvement with ufology?
My family is very supportive. My spouse-equivalent is an active professional and keeps very busy. We have no children, which is true with many ufologists. In my software and statistical consulting job with SPSS, I donít go out of my way to inform my work colleagues. If I do mention it to people who already know me, they generally react positively. The reaction in grad school at UIC was mainly indifference, but not ridicule.
What is your reaction to the public and the media concerning UFOís?
I have almost no power over the media. What affect can anyone have? I am at times frustrated yet resigned to it. I want to make people aware of the Center and to become involved. I donít have the personal luxury of looking at the field because I am directing the Center. I take my job here seriously; it is on my mind first and foremost. The biggest frustration is that it takes 85 to 90% of my time just to keep it going; Iím always doing 2 things at once. Moments on real research are a luxury.
Do you believe that there are individuals in the government or military who know of extraterrestrial intelligence and Ďjust arenít telling?í
If Roswell wasnít a crashed saucer, then no one knows. There is no other case; Roswell is the key. We at CUFOS can point proudly to the research done at Roswell..
What do you think realistically can be done to promote the serious study of UFOís?
Realistically, more scientists need to be more involved in research, with more financial support. If more research is published, more interest would be generated. Everything builds on that. If there are no sightings reported, there is nothing to build on. You canít expect to generate public interest. The point of serious UFO research is, if something is out there, letís examine it.