UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes > October 1995 Search

Joan Frisch Embarks on a Northwest Passage

If you met the manager of UCAR's Media Relations office, Joan Frisch, this past year, you might think she worked for the Washington state chamber of commerce. She's quick to pull out her map of Puget Sound and photos of her dream retirement home in Port Ludlow, 90 minutes from Seattle by car and ferry. After buying the house last spring, Joan moved up her retirement date by four years. Her last day at UCAR, 3 November, will be quickly followed by the blue waters, perpetual greenery, and year-round flowers of the Pacific Northwest. "You can see water from every room in the house, except the bathroom," she says with the voice of one who knows what's important in life.

"I'm taking a risk for the first time in my life by retiring early from UCAR, not knowing what my third and last career will be," comments Joan. "I'm an eternal optimist, though." Joan bought a nine-unit apartment building in Seattle to supplement her retirement income. While she mulls over career decisions, she'll be hiking in the Olympic National Park (30 minutes from her house), reading, quilt making, and gardening. She plans to spend a lot of time with her one-year old granddaughter, who may move nearby with Joan's daughter.

Born at a gold mine in the northeastern corner of the state, Joan Vandiver graduated from the University of Washington in 1961 with a major in nutrition and a minor in journalism. After a year's stint as a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, Joan embarked on an eight-year career as a professional home economist (including three years as food editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer). In 1970 she moved to Boulder with her husband, Shelby Frisch, a scientist at NOAA. Joan worked briefly in NCAR's Information Office in 1971-72 before joining NOAA as a half-time science writer. In 1981 she returned to NCAR, bringing her new career with her full time. When the head of the information office left a month later, a national search was conducted. Joan was the only candidate with eight years' experience in writing about environmental, atmospheric, and oceanic science. Impressed with her porfolio of NOAA magazine feature stories, those hiring decided that one writer was enough and Joan was it. Soon after the promotion, her title was changed to manager of Media Relations.

UCAR vice president Harriet Barker, Joan's manager for the past year and a half, comments, "Joan's many contacts and interactions have led to an enormous, often unrecognized, level of coverage. Her work with the media has contributed significantly to our effort to educate the public about what we do here."

How has Media Relations changed in 14 years? As far as subject matter goes, seasonal weather calamities are always popular, and there has been a series of environmental hot topics over the years, Joan recalls. The big change, though, is that the media, scientists, and policymakers have become more aware of the societal and economic factors involved in weather and climate. Mickey Glantz's group has been a big help with reporters in considering, for example, the economic impacts of a strong hurricane season.

Another change is that some of the job's personal element has eroded, largely because of the arrival of ProfNet and SciNet (electronic networks for journalists and public information specialists). "I'm a people person. I function best through direct contact with scientists and reporters," says Joan. "Also, the bombardment of information and media inquiries over the Internet has become overwhelming."

Although the 'Net has transformed Joan's external contacts into e-mail messages, "on the other hand, I've totally appreciated the deep personal friendships I've formed with my colleagues in UCAR Communications," Joan says. "Also, there are about 50 scientists at UCAR and NCAR who have made my life easier by always being willing to give interviews or information to reporters. I feel very indebted to them." --Anatta

For the interim after Joan's departure, media relations requests should be referred to Lucy Warner (ext. 8602) or Anatta (ext. 8604).

An invitation from Joan: "To all those friends who are wondering how I could leave the beauty of the Colorado Front Range and Boulder, I invite you to visit me in my new four-bedroom home overlooking Admiralty Inlet near the Hood Canal floating bridge. You can explore the Olympic Peninsula, the rugged Pacific Ocean beaches, the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, the San Juan Islands, and Victoria, British Columbia."

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Last revised: Thu Mar 30 10:56:48 MST 2000