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The Victor M. Blanco Telescope (1Dec95) (from NOAO HIGHLIGHTS!, NOAO Newsletter No. 44, December 1995) On 8 September 1995, in a well attended mountain top ceremony, the CTIO 4-m telescope was officially named the "Victor M. Blanco Telescope." A large bronze plaque affixed to the building reads (in Spanish, then English): Telescopio Victor M. Blanco Enreconocimiento a los anos de destacada labor y servicio en Cerro Tololo. In appreciation for many years of outstanding leadership and service at CTIO. This plaque was initially unveiled on a pedestal at the console room level of the 4-m dome, following remarks by Victor and others. In the time required to transport attendees back down to the ground floor by elevator, it was swiftly and secretly relocated to its permanent site outside the main entrance to the building, greeting Victor when he arrived from upstairs! This gives an indication of the level of service that Victor instilled in the staff, and which subsequent Directors have maintained. The following reminiscences of Victor's directorship have been provided by former CTIO director Pat Osmer. Victor M. Blanco and CTIO I very much regret being unable to attend the naming ceremony for the Blanco telescope. I offer these remarks as a token of my great esteem for the man who is truly the father of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. I first met Victor when he was a Professor at the Case Institute of Technology, and I an undergraduate student from 1961 to 1965. I still remember taking his course in Astrophysics and the remarkable clarity and insight of his teaching. Little did I expect at that time that I would be working with Victor, in Chile, at CTIO, for the 16 years from 1969 to 1986. When I think of Victor and his accomplishments at CTIO, I think of how he built the scientific, engineering, and technical staff from scratch. I think of how he made CTIO a model of what a national observatory should be, and what an international scientific organization should be. I think of how he both provided outstanding scientific leadership and how he himself made fundamental contributions to astronomical research. And what I think most of is how he did all this while maintaining a warmth and compassion for people that never failed, even in the most difficult moments. Building CTIO When I arrived at CTIO, the 60-inch telescope was in operation and the 4-m was under construction. The detectors were single channel photomultipliers and photographic plates, and the electronics ran on tubes and discrete components. We communicated with the US via short wave radio because it would often take hours to get a telephone connection. Our "Internet" was a teletype and a paper tape reader connected to the radio--how prehistoric! Victor hired John Graham, Jim Hesser, Bill Kunkel, Barry Lasker, Malcolm Smith, and me for the scientific staff. Barry brought the first computer, a Data General Nova that should now be in a museum, and Steve Bracker, our first and unforgettable programmer. With that we began to enter the modern age, and I like to think we kept right at the forefront in instruments and computers all during Victor's tenure. What attracted us all was the expectation of using the 4-m telescope, the first large telescope in the Southern Hemisphere--and still the largest. I think the scientific excitement at CTIO during those first years with the telescope will never be forgotten by all who were there at that time. Victor was not only Director of the Observatory at the time, but personally played a major role in the alignment and commissioning of the telescope. The 4-m became the most productive telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, and it is entirely fitting that it be named today for Victor. CTIO as an Institutional Model Victor instilled in us all that the mission of CTIO was not only to provide first-rank facilities for visiting astronomers, but also to provide equally first-rank service, so that observations could be obtained and the research completed. This just became part of the atmosphere at CTIO. I think that CTIO has never been surpassed in terms of getting the right balance among service, innovation, and research, and it was Victor who saw that we got it right. Victor brought special qualifications to the Directorship because of his Latin heritage, and many years of academic and research experience in the US. But what really made him stand out was the unique combination of his understanding of the US and Chilean cultures and his vision of how CTIO should function as a truly Inter-American Observatory. Victor understood the crucial importance of working within the norms of Chilean culture, Chilean laws, and Chilean labor practices, while maintaining US standards and meeting the high scientific goals of the observatory. Victor used the critical diplomatic advantages conferred by CTIO's status as an international organization, so necessary to make a high-tech operation function in a remote site, without ever abusing the privileges in fact or in perception. Victor recognized the tremendous talent available among the Chilean staff and constantly nurtured and promoted it, which yielded both excellent labor relations and outstanding productivity. Victor likewise worked to maintain excellent relations with the Chilean astronomical community and the Chilean public at large. Victor's legendary diplomatic skills become apparent when we consider that his tenure spanned the presidencies of Eduardo Frei M., Salvador Allende, and Augusto Pinochet, an era that included some of the most divisive and difficult times in Chilean history. Yet not only did the observatory never lose a night of observation in this period, and not only did Victor maintain successful relations with all three governments, and not only was the Observatory's position never an issue, but CTIO was and is proudly perceived by the Chilean people as a national institution. I've always suspected that Victor viewed this as one of his greatest achievements. I dare to say that any university program looking for case studies on how to run an international operation should start with Victor's directorship. Victor's Scientific Accomplishments Victor had an outstanding sense of what would be good scientific efforts and directions to support, so that his scientific leadership was excellent, and he made major contributions himself. While space does not permit a full accounting of his many efforts, I still think of his work with Betty Blanco and Martin McCarthy on the stellar population in the central regions of our own galaxy and in the Magellanic Clouds as truly pioneering and outstanding work. In particular, their discovery of the astonishing change in the ratio of carbon stars to M-type stars from the nuclear bulge of our galaxy to the LMC and then the SMC still stands out in my mind as one of the most dramatic indicators of the profound impact that the differing chemical composition and evolutionary histories of these systems can produce. Victor's Humanity As if all of the above accomplishments were not enough in themselves, I think that what really mattered to all who had the privilege of working with Victor was his innate personal warmth, unexcelled wisdom and understanding of human affairs, and his unfailing courtesy. He was the padrino for many of us personally (including my wife and me); more than that, he was the padrino of CTIO itself. Que hombre mas simpatico y respetado! Victor, we all salute you. Patrick S. Osmer
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