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News Items
August 2008

A Farewell to Alarms

Holbrow_webIt’s been an exciting six months since I became AAPT’s Executive Officer. Having an amateur do a professional’s job is questionable. It’s okay for the amateur. Learning on the job is fun: What minefield will I walk into today? What financial, personnel, organizational, membership, IT, programs, or meetings crisis will strike? What amazing obscure peremptory demand will come from IRS, the NSF, the bank, or the auditors? What astonishing new screw-up will come to light? But having an amateur EO is not something you want your professional society to do often.

Fortunately I had help from lots of professionals—AAPT’s staff has outstandingly capable people. While I struggled to learn how my computer calendar and my voice mail work, they organized a national meeting, a conference of physics department chairs, a new faculty workshop, a training camp for the US Physics Team, an invitational workshop, and several smaller events; they processed 5000 membership applications; and published six issues of AJP, four of TPT, and a PTRA Resource Manual. Our friends at AIP provided essential professional help—some for finance, some for human resources. And Warren Hein, on leave at NSF, worked overtime to bring me up to speed on crucial aspects of our NSF grants and help with our ongoing collaborations with APS and AIP.

I wanted some changes. I wanted AAPT to develop public relations acumen and get some lively current material about AAPT and its members onto our website; I wanted to get our books for 2007 closed and our 2007 audit performed. It took me time—too much time—to learn who could do what I wanted. Only after I learned who could do what, did these changes begin to happen. AAPT’s website is now a bit brighter and more timely. The 2007 books are closed. The 2007 audit begins on Monday. The new communications department is taking shape.

Six months is long enough to have an EO who is learning on the job. It’s been fun; it has also caused sleepless nights, long days, and very short weekends. I join you all in saying “Welcome.” to Warren. He brings a wealth of experience and a calming demeanor to this job.

Of course, I am no longer really an amateur—I am getting pretty good with the computer calendar, and I’m really solid with the voicemail. I think I can now claim semi-pro status. And Mary Holbrow, whose writing and whose willingness to drop whatever she’s doing and help anyone in the office at any time have been essential to our work here, says, “This will look good on our CVs.”

I leave the College Park office as I came, believing strongly in AAPT and its mission and wishing the officers, staff, and members flourishing good fortune in the pursuit of better physics education for more people in America and all over the world.

--Charlie Holbrow