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May 2004

Wilmot “Bill” Hess, former NCAR director

Former NCAR director Wilmot “Bill” Hess died last month at his home in Berkeley California. He was 77.

Bill Hess

Bill Hess.

Bill enjoyed a rich scientific career at several of the nation’s leading institutions. He received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1954, then went to work for the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and the Goddard Space Center. He became director of science and applications at the Manned Space Center in Houston for Apollo 11 and then served as director of NOAA’s Environmental Research Laboratories in Boulder.

In 1980, Bill succeeded Francis Bretherton as NCAR director. His six-year tenure was an important time for the organization, as researchers took advantage of increasingly sophisticated remote sensing and modeling technologies, and NCAR bought its first Cray supercomputer.

Bill left in 1986 to become associate director for high energy and nuclear physics at the Department of Energy. He retired to Berkeley 10 years later.

In a 1986 interview, Bill said, “One of the things I think is critical for an organization like NCAR is long-term stability.”

Rick Anthes, who succeeded Bill as NCAR director and is now the president of UCAR, praises Bill as an important figure in NCAR’s history. “Bill was an incredibly energetic and optimistic leader who ran the NCAR Directors’ Committee with enthusiasm and diplomacy,” Rick recalls. “He understood that NCAR served many constituencies, and he fostered a well-balanced program of science and facilities. He also was very strong on the need to increase diversity at NCAR.”

Bill is survived by his wife of 53 years, Winifred “Westher” Lowdermilk Hess, as well as two children and four grandchildren. •David Hosansky

Also in this issue...

Shielding the Pentagon

Streamlining the NCAR Science Store

Cooling us off

Short Takes

Spring Fling

Mentoring Latina students

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