OGDEN -- Gas cost 29 cents per gallon, AT&T had just launched the first touch-tone phones, and the Beatles were barely a twinkle in Ed Sullivan's eye.
It was 1963, and physics professor Ron Galli arrived at Weber State College to teach his first day of class.
Galli, now 76, on Monday marked his golden anniversary by doing the same thing he's done for a half-century, barring sabbatical years.
"You're going to love physics," Galli told his latest crop of beginning students, who chewed their pens and furrowed their brows. "You just don't know it yet."
Galli has been a professor, Physics Department chairman (1964-1970 and 1983-1994) and dean of the College of Science (1994-2003).
"Ron essentially built the department of Physics from scratch," said Colin Inglefield, current chairman. "The building we are in, he is responsible for getting that done, along with the planetarium and the greenhouse. The fact that we have room for research is thanks to him. This building is about done with its life, but it has been here a long time."
Galli holds the WSU record for longest tenure as a professor.
"I just can't quit," he said Monday. "I love what I'm doing. I would probably do it even if I didn't get paid for it. Well, maybe not so much, but I love my students, and my full classes with students waiting to get in. I love teaching and research."
After earning his University of Utah degree, Galli applied for work at universities across the nation, and in industry. Weighing his offers, he consulted his mentor, Henry Eyring, a University of Utah chemistry professor who had worked at Princeton with Albert Einstein.
"He said, 'They are looking for someone to head a physics department at Weber. You need them, and they need you,'" Galli recalled. "I thought it would be a good place to start my career."
Weber State had just made the jump from junior college, and was looking to expand its faculty and its offering, Galli said. He hired two more professors and worked with the college's library to get subscriptions to physics journals.
"The only thing they had was Scientific American, a general science journal," Galli said. "I gave them a list of 10 to 15 to subscribe to, and they ordered them all."
Spring 1964 brought Weber State's first two physics graduates, who had completed their basic coursework before Galli's arrival. WSU now averages 12 to 15 physics graduates a year, Galli said, which is above average for a department of its size.
"Now we have about 12 faculty in the physics department, and they are really neat people who write text books, publish papers and do a lot of really neat research with students," he said.
One student each year gets tuition and fees paid by the Galli Scholarship, which Galli started while serving as dean.
Fifty years in, Galli is still presenting research of his own. In July, he presented a paper in Oregon at the National Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers. It was a follow to his earlier published work on how cats land on their feet from an inverted position, and offered a simpler way to present information to children. For years, Galli has entertained and informed local students and members of the public with his mechanical cat, made of springs and pipes, which also illustrates the physical forces at work.
And Galli and WSU physics professor Farhang Amiri together have published two recent papers. One, "The Square Light Clock and Special Relativity," ran in The Physics Teacher journal, and offered an explanation of why clocks tick more slowly as they travel faster, approaching the speed of light.
The other, "A General Principle for Light Reflecting from a Uniformly Moving Mirror -- A Relativistic Treatment," was published in The American Journal of Physics. It introduced a new principle of reflection to explain why the angles of incidence and reflection are not always equal when a mirror moves at speeds close to the speed of light.
Galli also has created a series of informational videos intended to demonstrate science principles in basic, easily understood ways. Several of his videos can be previewed through his website, http://physics.weber.edu/galli.
Galli wants his students to get excited about the questions and answers that for decades have fascinated him.
"Physics and related areas of science help you to understand the physical workings of the universe, the laws that govern the behavior of the universe, whether it be how light is produced, chemical interactions, nuclear physics, what radioactivity and nuclear energy are all about, what the universe is made of," he said, without pausing for a breath. "Is it made of atoms or smaller particles? It turns out there are smaller particles. To try to understand those elementary particles is what excited me to learn."
The basic classes get relatively basic explanations, Galli said. More advanced students who have taken more math get more complete information.
"So many of our majors start out by taking Ron's class to fill a general education requirement," Inglefield said. "Ron is just as excited to teach as he has ever been."
Galli has no plans to retire.
"It's an exciting time to be part of physics. I'm still able to function. I might reconsider if I ever get to a point where students are not satisfied. And my wife wants me to keep teaching." He laughed. "She likes to see me happy."