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February 2006

Random Profile: Will Piper

Will Piper
Will Piper. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Every other month,
Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Will Piper from DLESE.

You can retire, but you can never leave: Will Piper retired from COMET five years ago and took a trip to Spain and Portugal with his wife, Linda, to celebrate. When he returned, there was a message on his answering machine proposing that he come back to work for DLESE part-time. Now, he's retiring for the second and final time. "I'm leaving it in good hands," he says. He'll still be a familiar face around FL4, however, since he plans to stay in the casual pool to cover people's vacations if needed.

The PC expert: Will has worked at the organization since 1989. What began as a part-time job at Jeffco doing data maintenance evolved into a career as a systems administrator specializing in PCs. Over the years, he's managed networks, backup systems, and more for ATD (now EOL), COMET, and DLESE.

His favorite aspect of the job is teaching people how to fix computer problems themselves, rather than doing it for them. "My help philosophy is to take a little extra time and explain how things work," he says.

The hardest thing is keeping up with technical changes in computers. "The first computer that I ever worked on had no hard drive and had 16 kilobytes of memory," he recalls.

"Things have changed."

Teacher, artist, athlete: Will didn't get interested in computers until later in life. He grew up in Long Beach, California, and worked various jobs while pursuing a degree in sociology. He and Linda spent two years in Belize as Peace Corps volunteers, living without electricity, running water, and other comforts. "It's a fabulous way to get out of the country and experience new things," he says. "If you're in a rural situation, you learn to get along without all the fancy stuff that we have today, and life is still good."

After the Peace Corps, Will got a second degree in art education and moved to Fort Lupton, about 30 miles east of Boulder, to work as a high school art teacher. He eventually decided to pursue his passion for making pottery as a full-time job.

"I needed to see if there was a great artist in me," he says. He worked as a potter for five years, selling stoneware, cups and dishes, flowerpots, and more at galleries and fairs.

During the summers, he also led Outward Bound courses in Colorado and Oregon and went rock climbing in Yosemite. "It's a great way to get in shape, backpacking straight for 23 days at a time and eating a low-fat diet," he recalls about leading trips. "One summer I had lost so much weight around my jeans I had to use a climbing rope to tie my pants up."

Looking for a career change, Will took a job in the mid-1980s as an office manager at a sign company in Boulder. "The company got a computer and I taught myself what was required," he says. He began taking computer courses and landed his first job at NCAR.

Family and hobbies: Will and Linda live in a 1902 schoolhouse five miles outside of Fort Lupton that they renovated themselves. The acre lot it sits on provides ample space for vegetable gardening, one of their favorite hobbies.

Their son, Chris, works as a civil engineer in Denver and competes in Ironman triathlons.

Will got the travel bug early on by spending his high school years in the Belgian Congo in Africa, where his father worked. Will and Linda particularly enjoy bird-watching trips, which they've taken in Peru, Costa Rica, eastern Canada, and other places. His favorite bird is the trogon, a forest bird that ranges from humid lowlands to mountain cloud forests.

A self-described "flaming yellowdog Democrat," Will has always been politically active in the community. He is especially interested in education, having served on the Fort Lupton school system's accountability committee for eight years.

With his final day of work just around the corner, Will reflects that the best part of his career at UCAR/NCAR has been the people. "The people who I've worked with here have been really special," he says. "They're dedicated, smart, and look out for each other."

Right now, he's looking forward to post-retirement trips to Nova Scotia and Big Bend National Park in Texas for bird watching. After that, he can be found hiking, snowshoeing, gardening—and maybe showing up at the DLESE office every now and then to deliver some surplus yellow squash or basil from his garden.

• by Nicole Gordon

Also in this issue...

Dialing in: staffers save gas, time by working from home

New Scientists I have diverse interests

UCAR takes avian flu precautions
Staying Healthy

Random Profile: Will Piper

2006 AMS awards

Delphi Question: Delphi confidentiality

Sunrise project

Just One Look


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