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 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
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
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