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NOAO Newsletter - Director's Office - March 2000 - Number 61


A Message from Bill Smith, the New AURA President

On February 11, the AURA Board of Directors announced my appointment as President of AURA. I have accepted this appointment with a great appreciation for AURA's past accomplishments and an even greater anticipation for what AURA can be in the future. I am committed to establishing a leadership role for AURA, not only within the US community, but also internationally.

Over the past two years, I have made a concerted effort to take stock of AURA's strengths, as well as its perceived weaknesses. One of the most consistent views of AURA --- from its supporters, critics, funding agencies, and policy makers --- is the high quality of its people. This view is uniform and widespread, which makes it all the more gratifying that I have been given the opportunity to lead AURA over the coming years.

There is no question that the coming years will be perhaps the most challenging in AURA's history. The Gemini Observatory will be entering its long awaited operational phase, the Space Telescope Science Institute will take on a new mission with the Next Generation Space Telescope, the National Solar Observatory will work to build community support and prepare for the Advanced Solar Telescope, and NOAO will take on new leadership roles as community needs evolve. I have every confidence that AURA can meet these challenges and even seek new opportunities that fit our mission.

The accompanying article announces the resignation of Dr. Sidney Wolff who has directed NOAO over the past 13 years. Her leadership in science and in management has positioned NOAO well to move into the new era we all know is coming. The Long Range Plan she has authored clearly points the way for NOAO for the future. As NOAO directs more of its resources towards getting to that future, the community must understand that the goal is to provide more capabilities, including more powerful telescopes, instruments, archives, and software to enable more science. This can only happen through a commitment to change, which can be a difficult thing to embrace. The NOAO staff needs the support of the community in order to put NOAO into a leadership position.

The strength of the US astronomy community today is directly attributable to the contributions that NOAO and its staff have made. The challenges for the future will be more complex and more difficult in every way --- scientifically, technologically, and politically.

AURA is now in search of a new Director to take on these challenges. The new Director will need the cooperation and help of the NOAO staff in order to be successful. I am grateful that Todd Boroson has taken on the task of forming an NOAO Liaison Committee to assist in this search and with whatever tasks arise through the transition.

AURA is in the midst of change. Our management team is strong though, and the quality of our people will remain our most valuable and enduring resource. I look forward to serving as AURA's President.


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