NOAO < NEWS < Victor M. Blanco, 1918-2011

In Memoriam. Victor Blanco 1918-2011. CTIO Director, 1967-1981.

Victor M. Blanco

Con intenso pesar y un profundo respeto es que escribo estas palabras para reconocer los aportes de Víctor a CTIO, estos se hicieron extensivos a las generaciones de astrónomos que han pasado por Tololo como miembros de planta o usuarios de las instalaciones. Tuve el honor de compartir brevemente con Víctor durante mi primera estadía en Tololo como postdoc, pero no llegué a conocerlo mucho en esa época. Sin embargo, y a través de interacciones con quienes si lo conocieron, astrónomos, ingenieros, administrativos y personal en general, he llegado a entender el intenso impacto que tuvo en CTIO y la cultura Tololina. Su liderazgo llevó a CTIO a un sitial de primera importancia en la astronomía mundial, tanto en los éxitos tecnológicos como en su arraigado trabajar en equipo y el tradicional orgullo del trabajo realizado. Ese liderazgo, combinado con una percepción paternal por el staff, es lo que estableció el entorno familiar que persiste hasta hoy en CTIO.

Sus contribuciones llegaron aun más allá de las fronteras del Observatorio. Su activa participación en la comunidad Chilena estableció a CTIO como un icono, impactando a generaciones de niños Chilenos con las maravillas de la astronomía ya sea directamente, por ejemplo a través de sus actividades con el colegio Seminario, o indirectamente a través de las visitas a Tololo, o simplemente la consciencia cultural del rol de Tololo al explorar el Universo. Más allá de las fronteras Chilenas su impacto en la astronomía se incrementó cuando los jóvenes astrónomos que él trajo para trabajar en Tololo se dispersaron por el mundo, muchos de ellos reconocidos líderes internacionales. El legado de Víctor, en la formación de CTIO y las personas a quienes afectar tocó es un tributo imperecedero al hombre que instituyó el corazón y alma de este observatorio.


It is with profound sadness and also deep sense of respect that I write this note to recognize the contributions of Victor to CTIO and, more broadly, to the generations of astronomers that have passed through CTIO, both as staff and as users of the facilities. I had the honor of overlapping with Victor briefly when I arrived at CTIO as a postdoc, but didn't get to know him well then. However, through interactions with the many people whose lives he touched, including astronomers, engineers, administrative and facilities staff, I've grown to understand the depth of his impact on CTIO and the "Tololino culture". His leadership set CTIO on a solid course as a world-leading facility, both in its technical achievements and its culture of close teamwork and pride in the work that is done. That leadership was combined with a father-like quality for the staff, which firmly established the familial atmosphere that persists to this day at CTIO.

But his contributions went far beyond the boundaries of the Observatory. His active participation in the Chilean community established CTIO as a Chilean icon, impacting generations of Chilean children with the wonders of astronomy either directly, for example through his work with the Seminary School, or indirectly through visits to Tololo or just a cultural consciousness of Tololo's role in exploring the universe. Beyond Chile, his impact on astronomy spread as the young astronomers that he brought to Tololo to work and grow eventually spread out across the world, many becoming recognized international leaders. Victor's legacy, in the form of CTIO and the people he touched, is a lasting tribute to the man who provided the heart and soul for this observatory.

Chris Smith
Director, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory


Victor set the tone for CTIO from the outset – science and respect for Chile. His understanding of America – South, Central and North – was both intellectual and pragmatic. That, combined with his humanity and natural leadership, made him a respected and much loved human being, whom we were lucky to have as our director – particularly during the politically sensitive times in Chile in the early 1970s. Even during that period, John Graham, Barry Lasker, Jim Hesser, Bill Kunkel, Pat Osmer and I had the freedom and motivation to carry out our research and support activities with remarkably little interruption. Victor was my substitute father for my wedding with Anamaría in La Serena 40 years ago. Victor respected and was respected by staff throughout the observatory. It was a special moment when – thanks to Betty who worked with us on this – we could at last have him present with us again on Cerro Tololo for the naming of the Victor M. Blanco Telescope.

Malcolm G. Smith
Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory
(Director – 1993-2003)


Tribute to Victor Blanco

I write to express my deep admiration for Victor M. Blanco and the tremendous contributions he has made to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. Victor Blanco became the second director for the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in 1967, four years after its founding. Blanco was one of the most important individuals in AURA’s history and led the way in opening up the Sothern Hemisphere to the astronomical community in the US and elsewhere. The most productive telescope in the Southern Hemisphere now bears his name.

As director of CTIO, Blanco also maintained excellent relations with the Chilean astronomical community and the Chilean public at large. His tenure spanned three Chilean presidencies during tumultuous political times. Victor Blanco established a culture of excellence for CTIO and has become the standard for observatory directors.

AURA owes a huge debt of gratitude to Victor Blanco.

Dr. William Smith
President, AURA


IN MEMORY OF VICTOR BLANCO

Victor Blanco was one of the towering figures of the last century in the development of international astronomy in Chile. It is not an exaggeration to say that the current concentration of observatories owes much to Victor's vision and the way he was able to create a network of important people, both in the U.S. and in Chile, who shared a common goal and who had the influence to bring about the necessary policies and administrative structures that resulted in the extensive activity that exists today throughout Chile. Victor wasn't just the right person at the right time. He was unique. He had charm and wisdom but he was also focused and could take tough decisions and carry them out.

On a personal side Victor and Betty were the glue that held the CTIO compound together with their gracious entertainment and stories. Any social occasion that they were a part of consisted of laughter late into the night! Their stories emanated from a love of life that spread around them. Victor lived life to the fullest and his influence on the lives, both professional and personal, of those who came into contact with him were enriched. You couldn't find a better role model, and all of us who have had the good fortune to be associated with Cerro Tololo can be thankful that we knew and worked with Victor.

Bob Williams
CTIO Director (1985-93)


Even though it is thirty years since Victor Blanco stepped down as Director of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory his heritage is still very apparent to those of us who knew him, despite the many changes that have taken place since this time - the Gemini building on the recinto in La Serena, the new small telescopes on Tololo, the new large telescopes SOAR and Gemini on Pachon. And indeed the first blast of the summit clearing for the 8.4m LSST telescope took place on the same day that Victor left us! But it's not just the facilities that Victor established and worked so hard and successfully to perfect, and that are still being developed and enhanced, but even more importantly it was the staff he built and the relationships he established outside the observatory - with the user community of astronomers, Chilean astronomers, Chilean authorities, and the Chilean public to whom the word "Tololo" is synonymous with astronomy in Chile despite newer and larger facilities appearing in the last two decades. This is his most enduring legacy - a strong base that subsequent CTIO Directors have been able to adopt and build on with complete confidence.

Alistair Walker
CTIO Director (2003-2008)


TRIBUTE TO VICTOR

Victor Blanco was one of the great leaders of world astronomy in the second half of the 20th century, and the legacy of his work continues undiminished into the 21st century. He was also a very important figure in my own life. I had the privilege of being a student in his class at the Case Institute of Technology, of working as a staff member under his direction at CTIO from 1969 to 1980, and of succeeding him as director in 1981. On the personal side, he and Betty were ‘padrinos’ for Anita and me at our wedding in 1973.

What impresses me today as I reflect on his career is the remarkable breadth of his abilities and accomplishments. He provided the leadership for building CTIO from a pioneering and fledgling effort at a then remote and undeveloped site in northern Chile into a world- renowned observatory that became a model both for a U.S. national observatory and for a true Inter-American observatory. Victor was a hands-on observational astronomer who did important research and who contributed to the testing and commissioning of the 4-m telescope that now bears his name. He recruited and mentored a young scientific staff and guided their development in providing service, instrumentation, and software for visiting astronomers and in becoming accomplished researchers in their own right. He had the vision to establish a unified, merit and ability-based approach to building up the Chilean and international staff into an integrated team that worked together and focused on carrying out the mission of the observatory. From the beginning he recognized the vital importance of developing harmonious working relationships with the Chilean people at all levels, from the local communities and governments in La Serena and the Elqui valley to the Chilean astronomical community and then to the national government and diplomatic and international organizations in Santiago, all of whom were vital to the successful operation of the observatory.

The results of his efforts are truly remarkable. For example, CTIO was able to operate continuously under three very different Chilean governments and during one of the most divisive and turbulent times in Chilean history. That alone was one of Victor’s greatest successes. Now, going forward, the Dark Energy Camera will soon be installed on the Blanco 4-m Telescope and begin a survey that will help improve our understanding of one of the most important questions in all of science, what is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

Finally, Victor accomplished all this with a personal warmth, graciousness, and humanity that touched everyone who worked with him. It is for all these reasons that he is unforgettable.

Patrick Osmer


Best boss I ever had. Victor and Betty made southern astronomy great in Victor’s tenure at CTIO.

Bruce Atwood


I am deeply saddened when Sean Points informed me the passing of Victor Blanco. I am forever grateful to Victor for his kindness and generous support to me when I did my PhD thesis observations at CTIO in 1979-1980. As a foreign student, I was not allowed to enter Chile and needed new visa to return to the US. Victor took care of all my visa problems! He gave me director’s discretionary time so that I could complete my thesis with minimum delay. I was totally impressed by the superb service and dedication of the CTIO staff, a culture established by Victor and still preserved to date.

On the personal side, Victor and Betty are the nicest people. Betty directed a reporter from El Mercurio to me for an interview of an astronomer. Victor kindly asked me if every thing was all right. To amuse him, I made a small origami frog and told him that it was a coqui, and his hearty laughter made my day. I will never forget their kindness.

You-Hua Chu


Victor made Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory work. He proved to be an outstanding Director and as a fine a science diplomat and gentleman as one can imagine. His motivations were always pure, and he was trusted and highly respected. One may be proud to have counted him among one’s friends.

Dr. Goetz Oertel, AURA President 1986-1999


Victor Blanco grew and shaped North American astronomy at Cerro Tololo in Chile beginning in the 1960s. A very, very small part of that was hiring me and then surviving me as a research assistant at CTIO in the mid 1970s. Recollections of the two of us limping in unison after he hurt his knee stepping in a hole, and I hurt mine crashing a hang-glider in Morillos, always make me smile. His approach to his job as director taught me much professionally. I am grateful I saw him in 2007 to thank him for all that I learned.

Faith Vilas


Mine is a personal, not professional, tribute. Victor was my mother’s younger brother. He was my favorite uncle, as well as the favorite of every one of my over 20 cousins. I remember seeing him in uniform when he visited my family while on leave from W.W. II (he was a radio operator and navigator in the Pacific front). He taught me the constellations when I was a child. When I was nine years old and there was an international astronomical conference in Washington, D.C., he asked me to chose the object for public viewing on the National Observatory telescope (Saturn!). In more recent years, I have visited him and Betty in Vero Beach, Florida, where he hybridized beautiful hibiscus. His daughter Merida and I were close in age and interests. He always loved children and was loved by them. I cherish and honor his memory and will miss him.

Vida Carmen Kenk y Blanco


I am deeply sorrow with the final departure of Victor. I remember him helping me and other PhD students of Argentina, with our thesis observations.I spent months in the seventies observing at CTIO with his help. Victor marked and era at CTIO. He was the kind of person that said “no” and you went away from his office very happy.

We will remember Victor for ever.

Hugo Levato


Mine is also a personal tribute, as this incredible scientist described on these pages was known to me as Grandpa Victor. Though not related by blood, he has been my Grandfather for my entire life. He watched me as a baby (he even milked a goat when I rejected cow’s milk) and was able to get to know me as a man.

This immensely humble man could not have remotely revealed, to my sister and me, the lengths to which he affected the astronomical community in either the personal or professional sphere.

One reason for this may have been because an exchange with Victor meant his undivided and rapt attention, which made everyone feel important in a way that is indescribable; it was about you. He would ask about anything creative I was doing, and remember the details of them years later.

My father passed away when I was only 5 years-old. At that time my mother offered Grandpa Victor any of his clothes that remained, as she had no use for them. Instead of taking anything for himself, he grabbed a belt, for me, which he held onto for nearly 25 years. He waited for the proper time to give it to me, and for him that time was when I was able to visit Betty and him with my wife and two beautiful children. Perhaps this gift was a way for him to illustrate, the immense loss my father must have felt, knowing what he was leaving behind. This was Victor Blanco.

Not until he and Grandma Betty retired to Florida, was I exposed to the photos of him with Allende and Pinochet and started to grasp the importance of his role as politician as well as director. And now all of these tributes allow me to get to know another facet of the life of this renaissance man. For that I thank all of you, with complete and absolute sincerity.

He will be missed terribly.

Antonio David Vergara
Grandson


I was Victor’s last thesis student at, what was then, Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. I was also an undergraduate there and took as many astronomy courses as possible, especially if Victor was teaching, although there was no astronomy major in those years, 1955-1959. His classes were lucid, thoughtfully prepared, and he made sure every student understood a concept before moving on. And they were fun; there would always be little jokes and laughter sprinkled throughout. He also gave us a good appreciation of the historical development of a topic. The problem sets and exams he gave us were well planned, often using data from the current literature, and must have taken him a lot of time to prepare. Students flocked naturally to him, and he always took interest in their progress and in their personal lives. I was thrilled one day in 1963 when he called me into his office and gave me some Schmidt plates and papers on the Cepheus IV association and asked me to consider doing a thesis on it. He and A.D. Williams had published a short paper on a peculiar reddening effect there, and he wanted me to delve into it further. I didn’t need much encouragement and threw myself into it. He would check on me occasionally and was always available for questions and encouragement but basically let me follow my own instincts. It was three years before I was finished and ready to defend it; by that time he had moved to the U.S. Naval Observatory to become head of the Astrometry & Astrophysics Division after Kaj Strand lured him away from Case with an offer of observations on the new 61-inch at Flagstaff, and I was in Ann Arbor preparing to oversee moving the Curtis Schmidt telescope to CTIO under an NSF grant to Billy Bidelman. So both of us had to go back to Cleveland for my defense, July 23, 1966. This was his second trip back in just a few months since his pen-ultimate student, Peter Wehinger, had defended that spring. There are two items I remember from the defense: much to my relief, he deftly deflected a penetrating question from the statistician on the panel, and, as soon as I left the room and closed the door for their discussion, I heard his high-pitched, infectious laugh! I never found out what that was about.

In late March to early June 1967 I was at Tololo for the installation of the Schmidt (as well as the installation of the 0.9- and 1.5-m telescopes) under ‘Red’ Ludden and his crew while Al Hiltner was acting director; Nick Sanduleak, an earlier thesis student of Victor’s (both MS and PhD, as I recall) was the only full-time AURA staff astronomer at the time. One day Nick came to the mountain with exciting news – he had heard Al talking on the radio hook-up to Victor arranging a visit to La Serena to consider the offer of the directorship! We were elated, and a few weeks later, he was on the mountain observing with us on the Schmidt. He immediately set about helping us with the polar axis adjustment and solving a light-leak problem that had us stumped. This was our old prof who really knew his telescopes! He seemed to fit right in with the staff, and it was obvious to Nick and me that he was going to accept and bring stability to what had been a rather unsettled situation in the previous year and a half. Six months later, I was again on Tololo when Victor hosted the first of the three Chilean presidents during his tenure, Don Eduardo Frei M. I got to see Victor in his La Serena office on many later trips and even once in Tucson when he was acting director at KPNO (he told me he was eager to get back to Chile), and he always had time for a nice chat and sometimes to look at Schmidt plates together. One time he and Betty invited John Graham and me to a seafood restaurant in Coquimbo where we had a memorable evening full of stories and laughter. On my last trip before they moved back to the U.S., he invited me home for ‘onces’ and showed off his wood-working shop telling me that, when he was a teen growing up in Puerto Rico, he had been apprenticed for a while to a cabinetmaker just in case the professional life didn’t work out!

In recent years we had correspondence about once a year, and I have kept some of his hand-written letters. In one, he sent me a photo of us Case students taken at a party at his house in the early ‘60’s asking for help attaching names to some faces; he remembered most of them, but he wanted to remember all of them. There aren’t many who pass this way that are anything like Victor.

¡Que hombre tan simpatico!

D. Jack MacConnell


I worked at KPNO from 1969 to 1986. From 1978 until my departure, I was Director of Engineering and Technical Services. In that role, I made many trips to CTIO. Spending time with Victor was always a postive experience. Even though KPNO and CTIO competed for funding, Victor was always a gratious host. He had a great sense of humor.

One of the most important things that Victor did as CTIO Director was to build a very good staff in all areas: administrative, technical, and scientific. He was a great motivator of these people.

He will be missed.

Dale Schrage


I have fond memories of Victor both from my days as an undergraduate at Case Institute of Technology (as it transitioned to CWRU) as well as from my first visit to CTIO to obtain observations for my thesis. Several of us took a two semester course called Astrophysics taught by Victor, for which we were guinea pigs to use the draft of a text book he was writing. He created a final exam for which he gave us about 15 questions to answer over a weeks time, from which 5 would be picked for the closed-book exam. A clever trick, since I don’t think that any of us worked harder at any course than when we were struggling to solve those problems! In May 1968 I saw Victor at CTIO when I arrived to observe. My first night on the mountain he tracked me down outside the 60-inch to have me help him change the prism on the Curtis Schmidt so that he could use the telescope that night. I spent the rest of the night sitting on the floor of the dome talking with him while he guided. Weeks later in La Serena he treated me to dinner at the Hotel; we talked for hours over [several] glasses of wine, covering many topics, including the changing political climate in Chile. I suspect that he contributed to the careers of many young astronomers.

John Glaspey


It is with great sorrow to hear about the passing away of Victor Blanco. When in 1958 I got the opportunity to continue my astronomical studies as a graduate student at the then named Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Victor Blanco was appointed my thesis advisor. During my graduate studies Victor was not only a very good scientific teacher, but was also an excellent mentor for all my personal matters and problems, which as a foreign student I experienced in for me a new world. Even after my graduate studies, when back in Indonesia I got the responsibility to head the Bosscha Observatory at Lembang, he assisted me for several month to mount the optics of the new Schmidt Telecope. Only after the succesful mounting, and after we got the first Schmidt plate of the Carina Nebula in the Southern Hemisphere, he went back to Cleveland to resume his astronomical teaching. In 1968 I left Indonesia to work at the Astronomical Institute of the University of Amsterdam. For obtaining the necessary astronomical material for my research, I very ofter went to La Silla where the telescopes are located of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). At these visits to La Silla, I often went to the Cerro Tololo observatory, of which at that time Victor Blanco was the Director. After so many years I was very happy to see Victor and Betty again. I will always remember both Victor and Betty not only as very good persons, but also as excellent teachers.

Piksin Thé


CTIO became a great observatory through Victor’s inspiring leadership. By his approach to astronomical research and observatory management he set the best example possible for a group of young astronomers and engineers. His evaluation and judgement of people were rarely wrong or misplaced. Working under him taught me much about living life both as an astronomer and as a person. He was kind, generous, sympathetic, and always understanding of human foibles — especially mine! At the same time, when difficult often painful decisions had to be made he made them. For me he was a mentor, a collaborator on many papers, and a good friend.

Jay A. Frogel


The Victor Blanco I knew

It was in the middle of 1960 when Victor Blanco visited Indonesia for a few months. UNESCO had invited him at the request of the then-Director of the Bosscha Observatory, Prof. Pik-Sin The (now in Holland) to install, align, and initiate the observational program for the newly-acquired Schmidt telescope. The telescope had arrived at the Bosscha Observatory earlier in 1959 under the supervision of the late Prof. van Albada. Unfortunately, due to the political turmoil of those days, van Albada was not able to complete the optical test and the alignment of the telescope as he had to leave Indonesia. Communications between Profs. The, van Albada and the Case group continued to flourish and that opened the cooperation between Victor Blanco and Pik-Sin The.

I got to know Victor Blanco in this period when he taught us the very detailed plans for aligning the telescope (it took us several nights) and sparked my love for observational astronomy. He also taught in a more formal setting; the course on galactic structure and on stars embedded in dark clouds were inspiring and opened up our minds to these topics as he emphasized that the wide-field property of the telescope should be exploited fully for survey-type work. He conducted the courses in a very systematic and engaging way, using phrases that made us more aware of the problems. He took pains to be understood for those of us whose English vocabulary was severely limited. In those days, most of our foreign language experience was in Dutch, in particular, and German. The “Kabah” for higher education was Holland or Germany.

His attention to students as well as to the non-academic workers was most admirable as he tried to speak in their language. He really changed our view of “Americanism”, because of his humanitarian approaches to many conditions and situations at that time. I was impressed with his interest in cultural fields and his knowledge about our cultural heritage. One night he walked for more than 10 kilometers just to see the shadow puppet players; he did it, of course, when the sky was deemed unsuitable for observing.

In 1961 I became a student in the Case astronomy department (on an AID fellowship) to carry out my graduate work. There I learned more about his personal and humanitarian side. Being from the tropics, I found the first winter in Cleveland very severe. But Victor did not hesitate to lend me his heavy overcoat which was most appropriate for the Cleveland winter (in particular the winter of 1963 which was very cold and had many snowfalls). At the same time, he did require a full academic commitment as he knew the visa situation was not always conducive for a long stay in the USA. I worked under his direction for 4 years (1961-1965).

In his “spare” time, he occasionally would enlighten me with his views on the social responsibility for scientists in the developing countries (the terminology at that time was ‘third-world countries’). Above all, I really appreciated his scientific attitude when I returned to Indonesia in 1965, and he promised to extend his help as much as possible. I really enjoyed and appreciated greatly his scientific support extended to us at the Bosscha Observatory and his visions on science and scientists in developing countries.

SELAMAT JALAN VICTOR (Have a nice journey).

Bambang Hidayat


Victor Blanco was my stepfather, so I knew him from quite a different angle from most of the people whose feelings of admiration, affection and gratitude are so beautifully and movingly expressed here. I was ten or eleven years old when I met him — it was around 1968, in the Washington DC area — and decided at once that I liked him. As a child lacking the world-knowledge and sophistication to articulate it in these terms, I probably intuited that he was a genuine, sincere, spontaneous and brilliant person who madly loved my mother. What you saw was what you got. A wonderful teacher, he quickly and easily taught me to play chess.

Fast forward to the early 1970s. My older sister Liz and I were now living with Betty and Victor in La Serena. It was late in the Allende administration, pre-Pinochet, and there was plenty of stress to go around. I was an unusually difficult adolescent, almost single-mindedly devoted to abusing alcohol and drugs. Victor’s approach to handling such problems was patient and reasonable if somewhat minimalist. Not all my interests were unwholesome: I was fond of chess, which thankfully provided some incentive to keep a clear mind some of the time. I also became seriously interested in studying classical guitar, which he enthusiastically supported. As a self-absorbed teenager, I was scarcely interested in the dinner table conversation about such things as the Magellanic Clouds. But I have no doubt that the exposure to the culture of science was salutary; some of that common sense and intellectual discipline, as exemplifed by Vic, somehow seeped in and benefited me in the years to come.

He had a fine sense of humor, and was even more erudite than you might think. A good listener, a man of necessary but sufficient words, he could tell you a lot not just about Galileo but also about the Roman Empire, but you had to ask because he never showed off gratuititously. He would give you personal advice and share his wisdom in the most gentle and discreet way. When I first got married in 1994, I had concluded that arranging a wedding and buying a piece of real estate was too much to manage within a short period of time. He said interest rates were so low that now would be excellent timing, wedding notwithstanding. So my then-wife and I bought a townhouse, which ultimately proved to be a wise move indeed. Shortly thereafter he showed up with a gift of tools, and attempted to teach me how to use them to fix things around the house (with only partial success, for I am a chronic klutz and he was merely an excellent teacher, not a miracle worker).

In his retirement years I have had the pleasure of spending time with Betty and Vic many times during regular visits from my home in New Jersey to theirs in Florida. I came to love the ritual of landing, renting a car, and arriving at their home to an environment of easy relaxation and warmth. I believe that all of our identities, to a great extent, are defined by the sum total of our relationships and experiences with others. And I am grateful to have had Victor Blanco for a stepfather. It is entirely appropriate to feel sorrow and grief, and equally appropriate to celebrate the long, fascinating and productive life of a man who devoted his life’s work to nothing less than the search for truth, and gave generously of himself to all of us along the way.

David Mintz


I am sorry to hear that Victor passed away last week. He was a great man and a truly wonderful person. The first time I met him was at a party at Mike Rich’s house while we were both at Columbia U. He lit up the room and my girlfriend – Amanda – now wife – thought he was too nice to be an astronomer. I had always heard that Tololo was a great place to work and I told Victor that I would work there some day. He told me something that I always remembered. ”I am most proud of the staff I assembled because I felt that the culture would have to outlive my tenure there and it would have to sustain the observatory more than the equipment would.” It was a brilliant lesson. I did work at Tololo only a few years later. I did not realize at that point how rare a working environment like that is – particularly in industry where I am now. When I met Victor again at the 4m dedication, he remembered me and we talked again for a few hours about telescopes and stars.

The culture, esprit de corps, and standards that Victor put in place were still intact in the late ’90s when I was there. I am honored to have known him and privileged to have worked on his telescopes. He was a hell of a guy and I will never forget him.

John Filhaber


I was lucky to work at CTIO for 6 years under Dr. Blanco leadership, He was the best boss and teacher I ever worked for . He was tough but just and fair.

Khairy Abdel-Gawad


I remember Victor with great fondness when I first visited CTIO as a young postdoc in 1972. He was extremely gracious to me, talked a bit about the research I was doing, and told me to call him if I needed anything.

Dick Joyce