Yesterday several hundred fortunates gathered in NOAA’s Silver Spring auditorium to acknowledge Mary Glackin’s contributions to the agency and to the country over a span of decades. NOAA leadership and staff were there. The larger NOAA community of partners and collaborators were present. Mary’s family members were there. It was a privilege to be part of the room, which was packed to overflowing.
Mary is retiring as of this coming Friday as NOAA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Operations. That title’s a mouthful, but look at it this way. It is, quite simply, nothing less than the senior career civil service position in the agency.
But Mary didn’t parachute into the agency somewhere near the top. She started with the agency back in the 1970’s before even completing her education, at the most junior level. Over the years she steadily rose through the ranks. She contributed substantially to and ultimately led the development and the implementation of the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System. AWIPS is the IT workhorse of the NOAA/NWS infrastructure that enables our national weather-readiness.
Have you noticed that your weather warnings have gotten more timely and reliable over the last thirty years? You have Mary to thank.
And look at this inventory of additional leadership positions she’s held. She served as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service. She was Assistant Administrator for the Office of Program Planning and Integration. She was for a time Acting Assistant Administrator of the NWS. Add it all up and you find that although she started at the bottom, she served in the Senior Executive Service for 20 years, more than half her career.
That last statistic alone tells the story. You don’t pull the wool over people’s eyes for 20 years. To last that long, in positions of such huge responsibility, to have the country’s leaders continually turn to you, give you additional roles, you must be the genuine article. That means you must combine vision, attention to detail, and ability to execute. Speaker after speaker emphasized the obvious, that Mary embodied all these skills in ample measure.
But that wasn’t why the speakers kept piling on the encomiums, and tearing up. To each of them, from her staff to her bosses, what made, and makes, Mary special is her display of the core human virtues. Integrity. Truthfulness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Passion and compassion. Concern for others. Love. Time and again, they referred to her mentoring, her encouragement, her quiet commitment to ensuring that women can play their fullest role not just in the agency but throughout the international meteorological community, and other dimensions to her impact and influence.
In her closing remarks, Mary said that the praise, the compliments, the acknowledgments, were all too generous, were overblown. That’s the first lie any of us have ever heard from Mary over her entire career…
Two final notes.
First, the emcee, Ed Johnson, and special people like Darien Davis who worked behind the scenes to make this the singular event it was, deserve our thanks.
Second, and finally, the best news of all isn’t really news, so much as a hope. Mary may have retired from NOAA, but she hasn’t retired from the community. We’re all looking forward to her return in some new role.
The next chapter should be something special.