Carol M. Ambruster, 69, retired Villanova astronomy professor

Ambruster
Ambruster
Posted: December 18, 2013

CAROL AMBRUSTER didn't hesitate to speak her mind when she saw injustice.

Like the time the Philadelphia Orchestra raised its single-ticket concert price to make it the most expensive in the nation.

Carol hit the ceiling.

"Oh, my heavens, it's really a slap in the face," she told an Inquirer interviewer in 2002. "It's the arrogance of the rich toward those of us who love music."

Carol M. Ambruster, a retired assistant astronomy and astrophysics professor at Villanova University, was stabbed to death Dec. 9 in her Germantown apartment at Wayne Avenue and School House Lane. She was 69.

Police had no suspects in the slaying, which apparently came after a desperate struggle throughout the four-room apartment. The knife was still in her neck when a roommate found her about 9 p.m.

In addition to being an honored astronomy teacher fascinated by what was going on in the heavens, Carol was equally attentive to what was happening around her and in society.

If something required intelligent input, she would dash off a letter or an email to the press.

After President George W. Bush addressed Congress in March 2001, she joined an array of the opinionated in reacting to the Daily News' stinging analysis with an email to writer Gar Joseph:

"Thank you. Someone calls it like it is, instead of rambling on about W's alleged charm."

And then there was her reaction to a Stu Bykofsky column calling for legalization of marijuana.

"Usually I agree with Stu, but I can't on this one," she wrote. "I know a few people who regularly smoke pot, and I don't feel it's been good for any of them. It certainly hasn't aided emotional maturity and mental clarity."

Carol, who formerly lived in Havertown, converted to Judaism recently and was a member of P'nai Or, a Jewish Renewal congregation in West Mount Airy.

Jewish Renewal "is dedicated to revealing Judaism's inner spirit and nurturing the spiritual life of Jews," according to the movement's website. It infuses "ancient Jewish wisdom with a modern, egalitarian and socially progressive consciousness."

Carol found in this philosophy what she needed to fulfill her life, said Rabbi Marcia Prager of P'nai Or.

"She was very loved and admired," Prager said. Carol was active with the congregation and had made many friends, she said.

"Carol was a refined, thoughtful person, highly educated and insightful," Prager told the Daily News.

Carol's Germantown apartment was a reflection of her eclectic tastes. It contained an array of books, jewelry, stamps, antique bottles and American Indian art, as well as three cats.

Even after she retired from Villanova, Carol continued to indulge her fascination with the skies. She made trips to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to study how early astronomers used rock formations and other structures to study the stars.

Carol taught at Villanova from 1987 to 2011. A native Californian, she attended Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a doctorate in astronomy in 1984.

She did some of her doctoral work at the Franklin Institute. She was a member of the International Astronomical Union, and had done research at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado.

A graveside service was held yesterday at Montefiore Cemetery, Church Road and Borbeck Avenue, Jenkintown. Friends and family returned to the P'nai Or congregation, which meets in the Summit Presbyterian Church at 6757 Greene St., for a memorial service.

A community gathering at the congregation to celebrate Carol's memory will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday.

An early marriage ended in divorce. She is survived by a half sister, Ariel Ambruster.

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