Reminiscences of Janet A. Mattei, former director of the American Associations of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
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МИНИСТЕРСТВО ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ И НАУКИ УКРАИНЫ
НАЦИОНАЛЬНЫЙ ЛИНГВИСТИЧЕСКИЙ УНИВЕРСИТЕТ
Курсовая работа (на английском языке)
Reminiscences of Janet A. Mattei, former director of the American Associations of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Term paper (in English)
Подготовил: Тимошенко Олег
2-й курс, специальность
English, German, Franch
- Introduction: Janet Akyuz Mattei and the Aavso
- Janet as a high-energy object
- Janet as the boss
- Janet as a friend and mother figure
- Janet’s Turklish
- Janet as a force to be reckoned with
- Janet as mentor
- Beginning her career (1974−1984)
- Freed from the past? (1985−1994)
- A mature leader (1995−2004)
- An unfinished but closed chapter
Introduction: Janet Akyuz Mattei and the Aavso
Janet Akyuz Mattei (1943−2004) and the AAVSO were meant to be part of each other’s lives. In 1969, Janet was teaching and working towards a Master of Science degree in her native Turkey when she learned about the summer research program under Dr. Dorrit Hoffleit at Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket. That year Janet was introduced to variable stars and the AAVSO-and her future husband, Michael Mattei-on Nantucket: variable stars in her research with Dorrit, and Mike and the AAVSO through its meeting held there in October. A brilliant student and young scientist of great promise with an outgoing and enthusiastic personality, Janet was hired as AAVSO Director Margaret Mayall’s assistant in 1972. When Margaret decided to retire, Janet was selected by the AAVSO Council in October 1973 to succeed Margaret as Director, a position she held for over 30 years until her death on March 22, 2004.
During those 30 years Janet worked unceasingly on behalf of the AAVSO, its members and observers, and those who want to learn about astronomy and variable stars, and to further the field of variable star astronomy. She strove continually to teach the global astronomical and educational communities about the vital contributions that amateur astronomers make to variable star astronomy. Over and over again, in her talks she demonstrated how astronomers, educators, and students could enhance their research through utilizing the talents of variable star observers, the fruit of their labors-variable star observations-and the unique resources the AAVSO offered.
Janet worked equally hard to encourage amateur astronomers to participate in variable star observing and research, to provide means for their learning information and techniques to enable them to succeed and find enjoyment in variable star work, and to see that they received recognition from the professional community for their vital contributions. She also believed firmly in the potential of young people, and supported and encouraged them however she could, including helping them explore the excitement of astronomy and scientific research.
Janet’s directorship took place during times of tremendous challenges and opportunities: the advent of satellite astronomy, the evolution of computer technology that opened up new vistas for communication and data management, instrumentation advances that gave amateur astronomers access to observing equipment only dreamed of before. Within the AAVSO itself, there were difficult times early in the 1980s, the exciting acquisition of a permanent Headquarters building, significant growth in the size of the staff, exponential growth in the size of the AAVSO International Database. Janet rose to these challenges and opportunities, staying flexible and open to new ideas and possibilities while remaining unyielding on the integrity, quality, and reliability of the AAVSO, its database, and its services and programs.
Through Janet’s vision and leadership, the AAVSO evolved as the world around it evolved, and it has prospered. Today’s AAVSO-still evolving-participates in cutting-edge variable star research, offers multiple observing programs to observers, is strongly involved in education and public outreach, enjoys fruitful working relationships with many other variable star organizations around the world, and looks to the future for exciting new possibilities.
However, AAVSO Director and scientist were only part of who Janet was. She was also spouse, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, colleague, mentor. She gave of herself, her time, and her talents, and she felt honored and appreciative when people gave to her. She filled people’s lives with joy, excitement, and satisfaction, and she rejoiced in the happiness and success of others. She told people when she was pleased for them, and perhaps more importantly, when she was concerned for them, and unfailingly asked-and honestly meant it-if she could help in any way. We will miss the gracious, caring, and enthusiastic bundle of energy that was Janet, with the smile in her voice, the kind word, the insightful comment, the big picture always in mind.
Janet was enormously proud of the AAVSO and its members and observers. We were enormously proud of Janet, and we are grateful to her for giving herself to the AAVSO with such devotion, and for leaving us her personal legacy of striving for excellence, dedication, and compassion.
A View of Janet Mattei, from the Headquarters Staff
Janet as a high-energy object
Most of you probably already know that Janet was a very energetic person. This was true no matter the time of day, and the early workday morning was no exception. Every day, like clockwork, Janet would open the door to the office and would call out her energetic and resounding greeting, «Good Morning.» No matter what was going on, and even if it hadn’t been a great morning thus far, you were suddenly aware of the burst of positive energy that had just walked through the door. You didn’t have to see her face to know that she was smiling, it just came through in her voice. If you had not made eye contact with Janet on her entrance, she was sure to wish you a personal «good morning» upon her initial contact with you for the day. This was always true for the staff partitioned off in the library, where her cheerful daily greeting could not be heard. Therefore, a special, «Good Morning, Ladies» was always bid to Kate and Gamze. After setting her things in her office and getting her cup for her morning tea, she would always proceed to ask the general question, «How is everyone this morning?» as she crossed the office, genuinely concerned about everyone’s well-being.
Janet’s energy lasted throughout the day, and was evident through the distinct sound of her footsteps. Although Janet was small in stature, her fast and powerful footfalls always gave her away. They burst with energy, much like Janet herself. Mike and Sara, who work downstairs, say they always knew when Janet was walking about above them because her steps were unlike any others.
Janet was also known for working very late at the office, often times staying overnight to finish a project or prepare for a meeting. Her energetic dedication was unrivaled. She did whatever it took to get the job done. This devotion not only applied to Janet’s in-office work ethic, but it applied outside as well-literally. One wintry night a terrible winter snow storm had been forecast. Worried about driving home, Janet decided to stay in a hotel near the office. The next morning when Matt arrived at work planning to do some snow removal, he was stunned to see that Janet had already made the trip back to the office and had shoveled the entire walkway out in front of Headquarters-of all 24 inches of snow!
Janet as the boss
If Janet didn’t have a photographic memory, she had something that was very close to it. Give her the name of a variable star and she could tell you the specific date, author, and title of an article on a subj ect that you were just «wondering» about. Her internet-like memory was not limited to variable stars, but also encompassed information about AAVSO members and observers. For instance, there was one time when she was out of the office and called Headquarters to find out somebody’s phone number. Travis read her the number, to which she replied, «No, that’s not right, that’s his old number.» Travis, thinking to himself, «how could she possibly know if that is the wrong number with out dialing it, especially when she barely knows this person?» went to go find the updated number. Sure enough he found out that it was indeed the old number and when giving Janet the new one she said, «Yes, this is the right one. «
Janet also had a terrific sense of humor that could often be seen through the unique twinkle in her eye and a great child-like grin. Once Travis leaned into her office and asked if she wanted anything from a local store for lunch. She told him that she would like «a salad from the salad bar.» So Travis, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the fact that he had no idea what she liked on her salad, asked her if there was anything in particular she wanted. To this she replied, «oh anything,» and as Travis turned to leave, she added, «and your job is riding on it.» Janet was, of course, smiling like a Cheshire cat while saying this. Realizing that he had been the subject of some of Janet’s light humor, Travis laughed-eventually.
With her charismatic personality, Janet had a way of pulling people in to listen to what she had to say. Often times, she would come out of her office into the «big room» and start talking about something to no one in particular, but by the end of what she was saying, most people were engaged and it had transformed into an office-wide discussion. Perhaps it was an unusual method, but it was effective in getting a consensus on a matter, which is probably what she was trying to do anyway.
Above all, Janet had an incredible talent for making us all feel that we, and the work that we were doing, were truly valued. No matter how big or small the task, she always made sure to give her thanks upon completion of a given duty. Often times she’d suggest going out and having a celebratory dinner in honor of completing a special project. Although the celebrations didn’t always happen because of busy schedules-Janet, Elizabeth, Margaret Mayall, and Charles Scovil never got around to the planned steak and champagne dinner celebrating completion of the AAVSO Variable Star Atlas (they ended up having crackers for dinner in the office as the last «day» of the project dragged on into the wee hours of the morning) — the fact that she had suggested a special event signified her deep gratitude. Janet’s appreciation was also clearly evident come payday at the AAVSO. In most offices, paychecks often come from a «Human Resources» department and are distributed without much verbal exchange. At the AAVSO, however, they always came directly from Janet’s hand, whereby she was sure to make distinct eye contact while offering a sincere «thank you. «
Janet as a friend and mother figure
Janet was more thanjust aboss to us. Sometimes she was a friend and sometimes she was more of a mother figure. She always cared for each of us individually and no matter how crazy her schedule got, or what was going on in her life, Janet always took time to take a personal interest in our lives and our families.
Genuinely concerned about our well-being, Janet always had the uncanny ability to find a cure for whatever ailment we had. She knew of certain remedies and would dispense her knowledge like a sage. Always ready with a hefty supply of Vitamin С or Echinacea for anyone who suggested they might be getting sick, Janet also had a special fondness for one particular remedy called «Airborne.» If you haven’t heard of this stuff you might want to buy stock. Janet spread the good word about these immune boosting tablets that prevent one from getting sick which, as we all know, is much better than getting sick in the first place. Her conviction prompted a lot of us to go to our nearest drug store and buy out their supply (that is, if Janet hadn’t already swiped the shelves clean). Kate admits to keeping two bottles of the stuff at home and wouldn’t think of stepping foot on an airplane without some in her system.
If she could not fend off your ailment, Janet always had a backup plan. Another of her miracle cures was contained in a mysterious bottle labeled «China Oil» that resided in the medicine chest of the ladies room. On separate occasions and to different people Janet suggested using this stuff to gargle away a sore throat, to get rid of a cold sore, fight nasal congestion, banish a pimple, and to relieve arthritic pain. The scary thing is that it actually worked for all these things! Yes, that is China Oil… don’t know what it is, don’t know why it is. just know that it works!
Janet not only thought about us when we were ailing, but when we were in good health as well. She was always excited about any special events happening in our lives. She would make a point of asking how a particular dinner may have gone, how your house guests were doing, and so on. She was always just as proud and as curious about our lives outside of the office. She would happily go to Rebecca and Sarah’s plays, attend Elizabeth’s and Sara’s concerts, and whatever else she could do, in her limited spare time, to show her support. She was truly happy when good things happened for us, such as when Kerri told Janet that she was pregnant. Overcome with joy, Janet literally jumped out of her chair, clapped her hands, and exclaimed, «I'm so glad you did it!»
Birthdays were always important dates for Janet. Almough we would have a little office celebration with cake and a gift for the staff birthday person, Janet would always pull you aside afterwards to give you a special gift that she had gotten for you personally. Tokens of her generosity are displayed throughout the office and throughout our homes, and hold a special place in our memories. Perhaps the most memorable birthday present of all was when Janet arranged for a belly dancer to show up at AAVSO volunteer Katherine Hazen 's 80th birthday party at Headquarters. Aside from stopping passers-by in the window, it was a great surprise and delight. Janet certainly knew how to throw excitement into a party!
Beyond the personal relationships with the staff, Janet also forged bonds with our families. Although our loved ones may have never met Janet, they are well aware of her thoughtfulness through the sweets, flowers, cards, magazines, and more that she sent home with us. After hearing about how much Kate’s family enjoyed a gift of Turkish Delight sent home with her during the holiday season, Janet made sure to stock Kate up with treats before leaving for her native Atlanta. Usually the gift was a box of Turkish Delight but sometimes it was fresh made Baklava, which Kate’s mother loved. A testament to Janet’s generosity occurred in December of 2003 when Janet was at the Spaulding Center for rehabilitation. While Kate was visiting, she told Kate to open up her cabinet and look on the third shelf. Sure enough, there was a box of Turkish Delight there ready for the trip to Atlanta for Christmas. In fact, there were boxes for all the staff members for the holidays! Kate’s family came to know Janet through her gifts, and through correspondence, Janet and Kate’s mom formed a relationship. But this is not a unique example. This was Janet’s typical style — making friends and forging relationships with almost everyone that she encountered.
As everyone knows, Janet was born and raised in Turkey. She came to the U. S. in 1962, and moved here permanently around 1969. She was fluent in both Turkish and English, but because she knew these two languages so well sometimes certain phrases would come out in-well, not exactly English, and not exactly Turkish, but something that we fondly referred to as Turklish. Here are some of our favorite expressions that Janet would sometimes use:
Instead of saying, «That would be like opening a can of worms» Janet would say, «That would be like opening a bag of worms,''' which we all agree is a bit more disturbing and graphic than a can, so probably a better expression anyway.
Instead of saying, «thinking out loud,» Janet would sometimes say «talking out loud,» which at last check is really the only way to talk.
Instead of saying «in the ballpark» she would say, «in the ballpoint"-probably a smaller area than she had in mind, but you get the picture.
Instead of saying, «out of the pan and into the fire» she would say, «out of the fire and into the pan,» which could be a worse situation….
Instead of saying, «burning the midnight oil,» which she often did herself, she would say «burning the midnight candle.» This is a splice of" burning the midnight oil" with «burning the candle at both ends. «
Another favorite was when instead of saying, «the squeaky wheel gets the grease» she would say, «squeaky grease!» and she would say it emphatically as in «the nerve of that squeaky grease!!»
A last and perhaps most humorous example of Janet’s Turklish, was when, instead of inviting a visiting Post doc candidate to go into the library, take off his coat, and relax until she could be with him, she actually said, «go to the library, sit down, take your shirt off.» She quickly realized her mistake and burst into a big smile. Luckily the post doc had a good sense of humor and we all laughed, but what an ice-breaker!
Aside from the Turklish, Janet was certainly very well spoken, well traveled, and a truly internationally-minded person. There was no name, be it French, Japanese, or Russian, that she could not pronounce. However for some reason there was one that she never was able to get quite right. You could tell that it was coming up in a sentence (usually at an AAVSO meeting) when her normally steadily paced speech would slow down to a halt as she said, for example, «and our next observer award goes to…» She would peer out with a sheepish grin as she said, «Gerry» very slowly and then paused. Invariably a resounding «SAMOLYK» would be heard from most of the smiling audience. Of course all of this would be followed up not just with a certificate and a handshake, but with Janet’s trademark heartfelt hug. We all know it was the hug that counted.
Janet as a force to be reckoned with
Although memories of Janet often involve her beaming smile and cheerful enthusiasm, she could also get down to business and be quite intimidating when she needed to.
Once when she and Gamze were walking back to Janet’s car after a lunch out of the office, they noticed a tow truck picking up a car that looked a lot like Janet’s. As they realized that it was indeed her car, Janet took off yelling at the tow truck driver demanding that he lower her vehicle. After several minutes of demonstrative gesturing and debate, the car was lowered and the ladies were on their way.
Imagine the surprise of a would-be thief when caught in Janet’s hotel room by her while she was attending a meeting in Paris. While most victims would turn the other way and go for help, Janet approached the perpetrator herself and proceeded to chase the villain-Janet wearing high heels, mind you-down the hall until the pursuit ended when the door to the thief’s sure-fire get away turned out to be a closet.
Dabbling in high-speed, high-heeled chases on foot were not the only civic duties Janet participated in. One night when she, Gamze, and Kerri returned from a working dinner, they noticed a car parked adjacent to AAVSO Headquarters with the trunk slightly ajar and keys dangling from its lock. Janet, acting as a sleuth, opened the trunk and investigated for any suspicious activity. Satisfied that no foul play had taken place, Janet shut the trunk and took the keys for safe keeping. Instead of notifying the police, Janet left a note on the car stating that the owner should contact her if they wanted the keys to be returned. Working late that night, Janet bravely answered the call to return the keys to their rightful owner. As it turned out, the scene was not a CSI Cambridge mystery, but rather just a simple case of someone forgetting their keys.
Janet as mentor
So far, we have mentioned several funny anecdotes that make us smile when we remember what a lively, fun, and caring person Janet was. But her influence runs much deeper than that. She enriched our lives as a leader, a teacher, and a mentor.
Janet Mattei served as an important mentor to many staff members. She treated us all with the same respect she treated her professional colleagues and was always available to answer questions and give advice, even when working late. Many AAVSO staff members or volunteers have gone on to become very successful astronomers.
Janet always had a way of looking at the bright side of things. When seemingly difficult times would be upon us, she would often say, «this, too, shall pass.» Unfortunately, Janet, our sadness will not pass, but since you would advise us to look on the bright side, we are all better people for having had you, your kindness, your wisdom, and your influence in our lives. Thank you, Janet!
Beginning her career (1974−1984)
I will never forget sitting for a few minutes in the dark on a bench in the Maria Mitchell Observatory having a pleasant discussion with a charming young Turkish girl about her experiences in the United States up to that time in 1969. However, when I learned a few years later this same young girl was replacing Margaret Mayall as the AAVSO Director, my first reaction was one of stunned surprise, in fact dismay. Janet was fairly invisible to me as a rank and file member during her first five years. Thus, at the time I was first elected to the AAVSO Council in 1978, I was somewhat negative about her as the AAVSO Director. My attitude would soon change.
I have had to rely on others to tell me about that first five to eight years of Janet’s tenure as the Director. I am grateful to Janet’s close personal friends and confidants, Dorrit Hoffleit and Martha Hazen, and to Charles Scovil, George Fortier, and Marv Baldwin, the first three AAVSO presidents that Janet worked with as director, and to John Bortle, an outstanding observer, all of whom generously shared time and their thoughts with me.
Anyone who has had the unique experience of taking over command in any organization, large or small, can likely imagine the feelings that Janet must have had on the first day after she took control of the keys to the office at 187 Concord Avenue in Cambridge. She had worked in the AAVSO office for less than a year. Of the individuals she knew there, only Margaret Mayall and Dorrit Hoffleit could have seemed like friends that she could rely on for help. That thought no doubt gave Janet an uneasy feeling. Furthermore, the way things ran then, as now, the AAVSO’s officers did not spend a lot of time helping the director with her work. Furthermore, interest in variable stars was increasing both among observers and among the professionals, so both the observations from amateurs and the questions from professionals were coming in faster than ever.
Those first few years must have seemed like a nightmare for Janet. During the day she was in the office responding to calls, answering questions, and plotting data by hand. In the late 1960s, Margaret initiated coding of all current observations on punched cards but the work was going slowly and made no real contribution to the daily work in the office. Indeed, Margaret had continued to plot all incoming observations manually, with a pencil on paper, so she could respond to questions that arose about specific AAVSO program stars, mainly the long period variables. Janet attempted to follow in Margaret’s footsteps in this way, but she also spent many nights at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) computing center attempting to debug programs to plot the punched card data as light curves.
If Janet had any reservations about how to perform her job, it was not evident from the way she handled things from the start. In a 1975 letter to Marv Baldwin, Janet opened with a very cordial introduction and her thanks for all past efforts, a few other pleasantries, and then urged Marv to get things done «with a lot of hard nosed arm twisting.» Marv characterized this as typical of Janet’s style for the rest of her career.
Following in Margaret MayalPs footsteps was not made easier by the fact that a transition from the Old Guard to a new order in the AAVSO was increasingly being demanded by some members. An example of this pressure, which had arisen well before Margaret retired, can be seen in the movement for increased member communications that was in progress as Janet became director. An informal newsletter, Variable Views, published by AAVSO member Carolyn Hurless from her Lima, Ohio home, was very successful in promoting communication among some members but was completely outside headquarters control and not always appreciated there. An aggressive group of members-the «Fairfield Four»: Clint Ford, Charles Scovil, John Bortle, and Wayne Lowder-decided that the AAVSO needed several new types of more formal communication with its members. They undertook two new publications-The Journal of the AAVSO (JAAVSO), and the AA VSO Circular-both of which were edited, printed, and distributed from the Stamford Observatory in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Thus, neither Margaret, nor Janet as her successor, had complete control over the content of these off-site publications, though both reserved the right to review any publication that bore the AAVSO logo.
The Journal of the AAVSO (JAAVSO), edited initially by William and Florence Glenn, did fill a very real need. However, as a technical journal claiming to represent the Association to the variable star community around the world it was a constant source of concern for Janet. The AAVSO Circular edited by John Bortle was welcomed for its monthly feedback by many members who were interested in cataclysmic and irregular variables, but the problems for headquarters were the same.
When the Glenns resigned as editors of the JAAVSO in 1974, Janet had her first opportunity to begin dealing constructively with the problem created by these initiatives. After the AAVSO Council appointed Charles Whitney to the journal editorship, Janet began gradually to move activities related to the journal into headquarters. Production of the first JAAVSO issues at headquarters in Cambridge took place in 1975, and has been handled there since. Janet used the opportunity to replace the JAAVSO editor successfully to begin the major changes needed in headquarters staffing and organization, a process that continued throughout her tenure as director.
The «Fairfield Four» were also responsible for initiating the preparation of the AAVSO Variable Star Atlas, a project that was sorely needed, but again outside the ability of the limited headquarters staff to monitor or manage. In addition, the atlas project precipitated another crisis when AAVSO Treasurer Richard Davis resigned in a mid-term dispute involving handling of the Atlas. His resignation created a vacuum that Newton May all filled for a few years. However, Newton over-supervised Janet, stretching their relationship to the breaking point. Janet handled this effectively by recruiting Ted Wales as Treasurer.
The main point I want to leave you with here is that there was an enormous amount of turmoil under the placid surface that was the public face of the AAVSO in those days. The ever-smiling, charming young Turkish girl turned out to be just as tough and politically savvy as anyone involved, and she needed to be just that.
After 1 was elected to the AAVSO Council in 1978 and started learning what the Director’s job was all about, I came to value Janet’s contributions to the organization ever more highly. I will never forget the trip from The Espousal Conference Center in Waltham, Massachusetts, to Logan airport after the 1980 Fall Meeting. lt was my first ride in a car with Janet driving, and a hair-raising experience is the only way to characterize it. On that wild ride I first learned to appreciate Janet’s concerns for the future, her desire to make the AAVSO her career, and her uncertainty about whether AAVSO would work to keep her. She expressed her concerns about the need for a permanent and much larger headquarters. She was already planning for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the AAVSO, an event that was still five years away, and hoped to have headquarters settled in a new building before then. This was, to say the least, an ambitious and challenging goal for someone with her limited experience-entirely characteristic of Janet.
Janet also faced some fairly intimidating technical challenges as well as the early administrative and political problems. One type of request from professional astronomers for technical support seemed to her to offer exceptional opportunities, coordinating observing programs with orbiting observatories. Professional astronomers managing orbiting observatories needed both predictions of events in cataclysmic variables (CVs) and real-time alerts when a brightening did occur. With some help from John Bortle, Janet quickly became skilled in predicting eruptions. By recruiting observers to provide real-time alerts and by making herself available to receive their notification calls at all hours of the day and night, Janet fashioned an active support program that continues to function well to this day. Her success in this program was largely responsible for the increased awareness and acceptance of the AAVSO within the professional community that we now enjoy. France Cordova announced to the world at the 1979 AAVSO annual meeting that an SS Cygni maximum that had been predicted by Janet, and then detected by AAVSO observers, had been observed in X-rays-the first time the observation of X-rays coincided with a transient event in a visually observed astronomical object. No one who was present will likely forget the electrifying excitement felt by proud AAVSO members, most of all by Janet, when that announcement was made.
AAVSO Headquarters continued to process current monthly observations, and to enter all the backlogged observations. The project experienced short term but frustrating delays with new computer programs and data entry technology. Progress was slow and the work was tedious. It would be difficult to over-estimate the frustrations that Janet felt most of the time. Progress was being made nearly continuously, but not fast enough to satisfy some members. Even more frustrating must have been the routine and crushing expectations from some members that nothing would change from the way that the AAVSO had always been under two prior directors. That expectation could be seen in constant demands that the next edition of the long period variables report be published while Janet was still struggling with the detailed editing of the data and with automatic plotting of the long period light curves.
As Janet became more successful with the data management programs, boxes of computer cards piled up in the office. Stacks of boxes served as partitions, supported impromptu tables, blocked daylight from coming through the windows and gathered dust. Then, just before the Spring meeting in 1984, a fire broke out in the apartment over the AAVSO office at 187 Concord Avenue. Fortunately for the AAVSO, there was no damage downstairs, but the event served as a wake-up call for the Council as it met in Ames, Iowa, that spring. When the Council realized that its most precious assets were thousands of pieces of paper that were decaying in wooden filing cabinets and thousands of boxes containing punched paper cards, it was clear that would have to move to a more secure location to preserve those assets. At the same time the Council decided to accelerate the magnetization of the data contained on all that paper so it could be duplicated and preserved. This plunged the staff into a long campaign to upgrade computer systems to bring all data processing and plotting into headquarters to support the accelerated program, and employment of additional staff in offices that were already overcrowded. The goal, to complete the data entry and validation of all the archived data (1911−1967), seemed achievable in a short period given this renewed commitment of resources.
With some coaching from Janet, Clint Ford gave the word that a search for new quarters should proceed on the basis of finding a permanent headquarters building that he would purchase and donate to the Association. At that point Janet was leading the organization across an important bridge in its history as well as in her own.
Freed from the past? (1985−1994)
As soon as she got the word from Clint, Janet solicited help from 2nd vice president Keith Danskin, who soon located an ideal property at 25 Birch Street, in Cambridge. Adjacent to the offices of Sky & Telescope magazine, and still comfortably close to the Harvard College/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatories, the building was the right size and retained the identical postal code. Clint visited the building, agreed it was the right choice, and negotiated the purchase. However, as the negotiations for the mortgage and the purchase of the property were in their final stages, a dispute broke out in the Council that threatened the entire plan. President Ernst Mayer was strongly opposed to any transaction that obligated the AAVSO to a mortgage even though Clint signed a separate contract with the AAVSO agreeing to fund the mortgage payments. Mayer refused to sign the mortgage papers at the last minute. Janet had to arrange for other officers to replace Mayer at the closing. The incident precipitated Mayer’s effective resignation from the presidency; he eventually resigned from the association completely, a tragic loss of a brilliant observer. Thus the Headquarters building acquisition was not without its cost in human terms.
In the following year, Janet and an AAVSO committee dedicated the headquarters building as the Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center as part of the AAVSO’s 75th anniversary celebration. Professional and amateur astronomers attended from all over the world. The celebration was a fitting climax to Janet’s dream of over six years. The dedication speaker, Dr. Ricardo Giaconni, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, accepted this assignment because of his admiration for Janet, and the AAV SO’s record of contributions to X-ray and orbiting observatory astronomy. It should be noted that the previous year, 1985, was the last year that U. S. observers contributed over half of the total observations for the year. Under Janet’s leadership, the AAVSO evolved slowly into an international organization.
The following year, AAVSO members became aware of Janet’s growing international stature in several ways. First, she served as one of the professional organizers of an IAU Colloquium on professional and amateur cooperation in astronomy. During that Paris meeting, the Societe Astronomique de France awarded Janet their Gold Medal for her international leadership in variable star astronomy. Janet was invited to the Leiden Observatory immediately after the Paris meeting to address the Dutch astronomical society. It was evident by 1987 that Janet was an international celebrity, at least in variable star astronomy. This soon led to an invitation from the Belgian astronomers who offered to organize the AAVSO’s first international meeting in Brussels. By the time that meeting took place in 1990, the international observations amounted to two-thirds of the annual total added to the AAVSO’s now truly international variable star observation database.
It was also in this period that we held our first recent joint meetings with the American Astronomical Society, first in Columbus, Ohio (1992), and then in Berkeley, California (1993). These joint meetings were scheduled to give AAVSO members convenient access to professional astronomers who were practicing CCD photometry and mark the advent of CCDs in AAVSO observing.
Fund raising continued to be a crucial issue to which Janet was forced to devote time and energy. She led a fund raising effort in the Council, published monographs as a means of promoting more gifts to the AAVSO, and even took on the Hands-On Astrophysics educational project as another way of enhancing our cash flow. Clint Ford’s unfortunate death in 1992 created the prospect of an inheritance, but did not relieve the AAVSO’s financial problem in the short term.
After Clint’s death, one of the things that became possible, however, was that Janet was freed to initiate a detailed look at what the future held for the AAVSO-the first time such a detailed planning exercise had been undertaken on the Association’s behalf. The Futures Study, in effect, marked Janet’s final release from the past and turned her gaze to the enhancement of AAVSO research and services to its membership.
A mature leader (1995−2004)
The changes that Janet led in the AAVSO in her third decade as AAVSO director are more apparent and do not require much elaboration. One of the things that stands out is the extent of her maturity as a leader. She led the AAVSO in that third decade in ways that were somewhat unimaginable for anyone who had been around for the previous two decades. The AAVSO survived a period of short funds while waiting for the Ford inheritance, delayed for several years by a legal challenge to his estate. Outside recognition came to Janet through many avenues. She was elected to the board of directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Two prestigious awards were given to her-the Van Biesbroeck award of the American Astronomical Society (1993), and the Jackson-Gwilt medal and prize of the Royal Astronomical Society (1995).
Many changes in the AAVSO were made possible with grant funding that flowed as a result of Janet’s increased stature among variable star astronomers. Consider, for example, how quickly AAVSO moved into the internet with very modern and up-to-date web-based utilities funded substantially from grants. Of course we had to have the technical horsepower on our staff in Headquarters to scale those mountains. What is amazing about all that, though, is not what skilled staff like Aaron Price can do, they work wonders. The fact is that Janet was able to employ them, and reacted quickly and support! vely to their suggestions. Our capability is enormously enhanced as a result. The pace at which Doug West was allowed and encouraged to move into Near-IR photometry is another clear example, as are the growing numbers of CCD observations in our database. Things could not have happened this quickly in earlier years; it is a clear reflection of Janet’s growing maturity as a manager that they happened at all. The most amazing of all such projects is the program of chart modernization. Janet may not have been too happy with the way that successful project emerged, but by now she was wise enough not to stand in front of a train that was long overdue.
However, the best example of Janet’s maturing management skills was the AAVSO involvement in high-energy astrophysics through the cataclysmic variables programs, and then through our rapid movement into the gamma-ray burster program. In a very short period of time, Janet got the grants, allocated the funds to the purchase of necessary equipment, facilitated the professional and amateur cooperation, and watched the results finally begin to flow. There is a certain comfortable irony to the fact that Janet had just come home from what had to be, for her, a very satisfying meeting. Our second high-energy astrophysics workshop with NASA and our third major international meeting, this time a «Pan-Pacific» meeting in Hawaii, occurred shortly before she learned of her illness that was ultimately fatal.
An unfinished but closed chapter
The «unfinished but closed chapter"-what do I mean by that? Well, in the final analysis, it was Janet’s own insecurity that prompted her continuous striving for perfection, a striving that at times brought things nearly to a halt in headquarters because she would not allow others to complete tasks like the final editing and approval of the journal. She was never able to overcome that feeling that she had to be perfect. It was this striving that got so many good things done so well, but there is a terrible price one pays for that insecurity in the later years of life. In a very large measure, Janet’s work at the AAVSO was already done; she was successful beyond anyone’s prediction, including her own at the time she was employed as director.
There is still much to be done on past problems and so many new opportunities. But that is not what I mean by «the unfinished but closed chapter.» If you have never experienced it, you may find it hard to imagine the tremendous satisfaction that one feels when handing over the keys to an office, and walking out for the last time, knowing that you have achieved a great deal doing the best that you could. For Janet it might not be overstating the case to say that it was the best that anyone could have done. That she was never able to step back, to retire, and be acknowledged for her achievements, to receive the final accolades for all that went into her wonderful career-that, in my humble opinion, is the real tragedy of her premature death, that she was not allowed to draw that chapter to a close herself.
It was Janet Akyuz Mattei, that charming energetic determined young Turkish girl we hired in late 1973, who put the AAVSO into high gear. No one who has ever taken a ride in a car with Janet driving could miss the metaphor involved, but what a wild and wonderful ride this past 30 years has been. May she finally rest in peace with the certain knowledge that her outstanding achievements as the leader of the AAVSO over that thirty-year period cannot and will not be forgotten.ПоказатьСвернуть