“We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” —Galileo Galilei, 17th century astronomer.
These are more than mere words to this week’s Neighbor to Know, they are the essence of the man. I welcome you all to meet and get to know Michael Beckage, Bridgeport neighbor.
Michael’s father was a gifted mechanic who served in the U.S. Army Air Corp in World War II. After the war, he became a career military man serving throughout Europe before coming back to Indiana in the late 1950s where Michael was born. When Michael was a year old, his father’s next assigned location was March AFB and the family moved to Edgemont, a small town near Moreno Valley in Riverside County.
The youngest of three, Michael, and his father were close and he spent hours learning the skills his father had to teach him on working with his hands and mind: bikes, electronics, and his beloved go-cart that they built. Living so close to the Riverside Raceway, he would go to the races (he loved drag races most) late in the day when they opened the gates for free so that he could watch and learn.
It was no surprise that Michael’s favorite subjects in school were Science and Math. At age 11, he began a love affair with astronomy that would stay with him to this day when a neighbor gave him his first chance to see the moon through his telescope and he was hooked. His father bought him his first telescope from Fedco (remember them?). His mother happened to see a posting in the local paper for an astronomy club which he began attending and by age 12 was already building his first telescope.
While going to college Michael worked full time in electronics shops and then an automobile crash test lab, learning the engineering skills that would define his future. He would graduate in 1985 with his degree in Engineering Technology in Electronics with a promising future ahead.
He went to work as an engineer for Nissan for almost seven years, but during these years he was already hard at work laying the ground work for his own company. One of his partners had worked with him at the test lab and the other was a classmate All three shared a vision and passion for crash testing so it seemed a natural evolution to start their own business, Diversified Technical Systems (DTS) which began as a Partnership in 1990, becoming an S-Corp in 1996.
In the early stages of building DTS, they all worked out of a garage-office space. In 1994 Michael stumbled upon Seal Beach when he was invited to a party, fell in love and stayed. Shortly after this in 1995, they got their first contract opportunity that would set DTS in motion and they knew they needed to find a real business space. As it happened, a “For Rent” sign was up at 909 Electric and within days, they opened their two room company at this location.
Michael and partners Steve Pruitt and Tim Kippen quickly gained other business and ultimately have become the world leader in providing data acquisition needs for demanding, high impact testing applications for the automotive, aerospace, military and other substantial industries. As DTS has grown, so did their staff and several years ago, they left their start up location to move to bigger quarters in the Boeing Business Center. They now have offices and employ people in Michigan, Asia-Pacific, France, Japan and the U.K. Most recently their equipment has been on board the Orion spacecraft as it gets tested for its ultimate trip one day to Mars, quite an accomplishment for a boy who dreamed of watching the stars.
Michael never stops learning; in fact, he met his wife Bridget while taking a cross country skiing class at Long Beach City College in 1990. They lived on Fifth Street before moving to their home in Bridgeport in 2003 where they live today. Perhaps it was serendipity or maybe a sign, but the night they moved in they were able to view a meteor shower from their roof deck.
Michael’s free time is sparse these days but when he has some, his first love is still astronomy and now he shares that love and passion with the community, holding community astronomy nights at the pier, Girl Scout House and other places when there are events to see in the night sky. His telescope collection now stands at seven. He reads constantly and travels the world to have opportunities to view celestial events such as meteor showers and lunar eclipses. He has traveled to the William Herschel Observatory in Slough, England, the real birthplace of modern astronomy.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Michael also sits on the Board of Directors for the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. As the current Chairman, he will have a unique opportunity to travel to Chile this October to tour their observatories in the Southern Hemisphere that are doing groundbreaking work in astronomy.
I asked Michael if he would go into space if it was available to him today, and surprisingly he told me “no.” He enjoys his feet on the ground and his eye to the stars. When asked how he would like to be remembered he did not hesitate to tell me this: “I would like to be remembered as a person who inspired people to seek a deeper understanding of their world.”
Do you have a Neighbor you think we should know? Send them to me at” EBETHL@hotmail.com.