BoV Chair Randy Henry
BoV Chair's Message:
Honoring David Lambert's Decade of Leadership
Last August, McDonald Observatory Director David Lambert sent the
following email, announcing his decision to retire as director of
McDonald Observatory, to the faculty, researchers, and staff of the
Texas Astronomy Program, as well as to the members of the Board of
Visitors Executive Committee:
Earlier this month, I told the Dean that I
wished to return to the Faculty by August 31, 2014. By then, I will have
completed more than a decade in administrative roles as Chair and
Director. With the coming freedom from administration, I expect to be
able to devote more time to research, especially to using Dan Jaffe's
infrared spectrograph IGRINS on the Harlan J. Smith telescope.
At this time, I should like to express my great thanks to everyone
who has assisted in the running of the Observatory in recent years. In
particular, I wish to recognize the senior staff: Joel Barna, Tom
Barnes, Anita Cochran, Dotty Frasch, Gary Hill, Herman Kriel, Phillip
MacQueen, Carolyn Porter, Sandi Preston and Matt Shetrone.
I thank too the Department Chairs -- Don Winget, Neal Evans and Dan
Jaffe -- for their cooperation in strengthening our Astronomy Program.
And an especial thank you to my Executive Assistant, Elizabeth
Linda Hicke, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, has appointed
a committee to find a new director before the September 2014 deadline.
Dr. Chris Sneden, who is the Rex G. Baker, Jr., and McDonald Observatory
Centennial Professor in Astronomy, chairs the search committee. Other
members are Dr. Dean Appling, the Lester J. Reed Professor in
Biochemistry and an Associate Dean of the College of Natural Sciences;
Dr. Anita Cochran, McDonald Observatory Assistant Director; University
of Arizona faculty member Dr. Marcia Rieke; Dr. Matthew Shetrone, Senior
Research Scientist and Hobby-Eberly Telescope Facility Manager; Dr. J.
Craig Wheeler, the Samuel T. & Fern Yanagisawa Regents Professor in
Astronomy; and Dr. Don Winget, the Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor
in Astronomy. I will serve on the committee, representing the Board of
David Lambert was already recognized as one of the world’s most
eminent astronomers when he became Director of McDonald Observatory in
2003, replacing Frank Bash. He has been an extraordinarily effective
leader for the Observatory.
David L. Lambert
A principal part of his legacy will be that he saw the importance of
HETDEX and made it a central priority for McDonald Observatory starting
in 2003 and 2004. Dark Energy had only been discovered a few years
before. The changes proposed for HETDEX, Lambert saw, would enable the
HET to make spectroscopic-survey observations faster than any other
facility in the world and to make a unique contribution to understanding
HETDEX is the most ambitious (and expensive) undertaking since the
Observatory’s founding in 1939. Lambert guided HETDEX from its earliest
stages until today, as project construction nears completion.
Lambert provides an update on HETDEX in this issue of the BoV
E-News. He writes that there have been some technical challenges in the
last year, which will delay the start of observations until early 2014.
The unique promise of HETDEX is unchanged by that delay — it will make
critical dark energy observations that no competing project can, it will
open up vast new areas of astronomical research, and it will make
history in the process.
HETDEX has been a team effort from the start, with many people
working to realize it, many generous funders (including BoV members),
and excellent partners in the U.S. and in Europe. Still, none of what
has been accomplished to date -- and all the future promise of HETDEX --
would have happened without the dedication and leadership of David
Lambert as a visionary, an administrator, and a fundraiser.
Lambert has also pushed forward other improvements to facilities at
McDonald Observatory that are too numerous to list fully here, and an
enormous expansion of the programs for Texas teachers and schoolchildren
offered by the Observatory’s Education and Outreach Office. Looking
beyond HETDEX, he had the foresight to make McDonald Observatory one of
the founding partners planning the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), and
he committed McDonald Observatory funds, proceeds from endowments (which
had been created by BoV members and others), and donations that he
raised for crucial early support that allowed casting of GMT’s first
It’s worth noting that the Observatory is primarily funded by two
special line items in the State of Texas Budget — line items that were
increased to help with HETDEX for two happy biennia in the mid-2000s,
but that have since been cut significantly (with more cuts all but
inevitable during the next Legislative Session in 2013). Lambert
deserves our thanks for leading during this tumultuous time.
In 2014, with the observatory set to celebrate its 75th anniversary
and with HETDEX starting observations early in the year, there will be
an important transition, made all the more significant by David
Lambert’s retirement. I know how dedicated he has been and remains to
making McDonald Observatory the best it can be. I hope you’ll join me in
thanking him for his efforts, in congratulating him on his successes,
and in celebrating his leadership between now and September 2014.