2006 Retiring President's Address
Reflections on a "Different" Year
In the Lake Woebegon dialect of my “edge of the prairie” home, it is well known that to encounter a situation and then proclaim, “that’s different,” is not normally a laudatory observation. Rather, it denotes an undesired perturbation from the status quo that is likely to bring a Scandinavian scowl, in somewhat the same tradition as the curse, “may you live in ‘interesting’ times.”
This AAPT year has indeed been both interesting and different, yet reserved Minnesotans would still observe, with their twisted optimism, “you bet … and it could have been a lot worse.”
Following 15 very effective years at the helm, Bernard “Bernie” Khoury announced early in the year his plans for retirement, and the Executive Board has worked with him in laying out a period of transition to a new Executive Officer. Our Executive Officer Search Committee began its work in mid-2005, and, at the time of this writing, is looking carefully at candidates for this crucial leadership position. We trust that by late spring of 2006 the new Executive Officer-designate will have been chosen and is preparing to work with Bernie and staff leaders during this year of transition.
And then there were the apparent medical risks for AAPT workers in 2005. Bernie Khoury had major surgery in early August and missed the Salt Lake meeting—AAPT’s director of Programs, Maria Elena Khoury, called to a strong nurturing role, was also absent. A meeting without Bernie’s leadership has been hard enough to imagine, but a meeting without Maria Elena’s charisma and organizational skills is enough to really give one pause. Still, our very large summer meeting prospered through the gallant efforts of Associate Executive Officer Warren Hein, Director of Meetings and Exhibits Carol Heimpel, Director of Member Services Valerie Evans; and many, many others. Following surgery in July, AAPT Secretary Mary Beth Monroe was only able to participate in the meeting by phone, and Roxanne Muller (Khoury’s executive assistant) and Sina Kniseley (former director of Communications/Publications) both missed the meeting due to six-months leave of absence following childbirth. John Roeder, board member, needed to skip the summer meeting due to earlier open-heart surgery, and later that year AAPT vice president and program chair Harvey Leff also had major surgery.
Those stressful times have confirmed that we have a strong and resilient team who will work well beyond the call of duty to keep this ship cruising nicely ahead. I should add that we are delighted that all of the folks mentioned above are doing very well indeed—including the Moms! But still, my family has observed that the AAPT Board has endured a 30 percent major surgery casualty rate—surely a dangerous occupation.
So What’s Different?
In spite of the stresses and concerns of this year, I can report that it has been my most rewarding year of national AAPT work. We seem to be reaching out more visibly into the full breadth of the physics teaching community on several fronts, and, indeed, are fulfilling responsibilities that simply could not be accomplished by any other physics organization. The empowering strength of AAPT for 75 years has been members who not only enjoy physics, but who are also passionately committed to skillfully sharing that experience, knowledge, and deep sustaining beauty at all levels. In that context I can with great confidence pass the gavel to Ken Heller, associate head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. He adds double meaning to the term “high energy” physicist. Heller is an energetic, true believer in the principle that the knowledge, spirit, and vision for excellence in physics teaching simply must be more broadly shared throughout the physics community. We all welcome Ken Heller to this position and commit ourselves to working with him in the very eventful year that lies ahead.