The AMS has changed my life. How has it changed yours?

I’m Bill Hooke, and the AMS changed my life.

A bit of departure from the usual fare for these posts.

The 97th annual AMS meeting is wrapping up here in Seattle. Exhibitors are breaking down their booths and displays. The last day’s scientific sessions are in full swing. And for those of us on AMS staff, along with the much larger number of folks who generously lead and serve the AMS in diverse volunteer capacities, the final batch of side meetings is underway. Some, like the NWS stakeholders meeting, draw a big crowd. Others involve smaller numbers yet are nonetheless vital. For example, each year, Thursday focuses on meeting planning: this time around, a debrief on the 2017 meeting just concluded and thanks to the program chairs and exhibitors. Planning conversations for the 2018 Meeting to be held in Austin, Texas, drawing on a blend of lessons learned and moving in the direction of the incoming AMS president’s chosen theme of communications. The AMS Annual Meeting Oversight Committee, considering strategic opportunities and trends for annual meetings over the long term. And so on.

In addition, this morning also saw a meeting of the Centennial Committee, preparing for the 2019 and 2020 AMS Annual meetings that will frame the celebration of AMS’ 100th year. Actually, those two annual meetings, even with all the special functions being planned, are merely the tip of the iceberg. Under the leadership of Bill Gail, the Centennial Committee is also wrestling with opportunities for new AMS initiatives, institutional transformation, and engaging outside groups and larger publics more effectively, as well as addressing a set of cross-cutting issues. The 100th anniversary is a big deal. Please sign on! The celebration shouldn’t be confined to a small committee, with 13,000 spectators. It should involve 13,000 participants. (Come to think of it, the whole country should be celebrating – all 330 million of us. Maybe the broadcast meteorologists can lead us there.)

At the start of the Centennial Committee meeting, Bill Gail had those in the room do self-introductions. We were invited to share, individually: how has the AMS changed our lives?

You should have been there! A great set of inspiring narratives from the twenty or so people in the room. Reminded me:

In the 1960’s, I was a newly-minted Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. I was working in Boulder, Colorado, at the Institutes for Environmental Research of the Environmental Science Services Administration (what would become the research labs of NOAA in 1970). Out of the blue (the only color of sky in Colorado), the AMS reached out. They wanted a token young person (my framing) as a member-at-large of their Publications Commission. What a great opportunity! I eagerly signed on, for what would turn out to be the first of three three-year terms (things were less rigidly structured then). A year later, Ken Spengler, then the AMS Executive Director, put his arm around me at a meeting and suggested since I was on the committee, it would be a nice touch if I were actually an AMS member.

Duh.

Anyway, that was the start. Because the AMS actually asked me to do something, that began a sustained relationship which has persisted to this day.

In the 1975 time frame, I got tired of the fact that gravity-wave researchers (my small tribe) were always consigned to last-day meeting sessions with lesser crowds. It occurred to me that I could start a STAC committee! So I did, working with Ken Spengler to establish a Committee on Atmospheric and Oceanic Waves and Stability. We held our first meeting here in Seattle in 1976, down the street at what was then the Olympic Hotel.

How to get people to attend the first meeting? A big concern. So I made two phone calls (no e-mails then). The first was to Jule Charney. The second was to Owen Phillips. They didn’t know me from Adam.

Were they interested? Could they come across the country and give a talk? Long story short… of course they could! After all, they were AMS members. Sharp scientifically, but also people-oriented, encouraging, helpful by nature, inclined to mentoring. So, that allowed me to make dozens of phone calls after that, always leading with Jule Charney and Owen Phillips are coming to this meeting. Would you be interested? Joe Pedlosky came. Hsaio-Lan Kuo came. Francis Bretherton gave a keynote. Jim O’Brien came. And many more. Eventually something like 200 people showed up. And it worked. The meeting was five full days, and only ten percent of us gave our talks on the sparsely attended, dreaded Friday afternoon session. Today, 40 years later, under the name Atmospheric and Oceanic Dynamics, the Committee is still going strong.

Down the road, the AMS asked me to run for Council. Sure! Set an AMS record for the smallest number of votes ever cast for any candidate. A few years later, they asked me a second time. That time around, served on the Council and briefly on the EC for three years in the 1990’s.

The AMS had changed my life.

Not long after, in 2000, the AMS became my life.

Then-AMS-executive-director Ron McPherson and Dick Greenfield invited me downtown from my NOAA Silver Spring office under false pretenses. McPherson asked: Brother Hooke, what’s keeping you from joining the AMS Policy Program staff? After a nanosecond’s hesitation: Nothing. Greenfield piled on: When can you start? Another nanosecond dragged by. Seemed like forever. Two weeks?

Dick laughed, Bill, maybe you ought to give NOAA more notice than that. So I extended to 30 days. Left NOAA on May 31 and started with AMS on June 3.

Quite simply, the last going-on-seventeen years have been the most satisfying of my career. At Ron McPherson’s suggestion, we started the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium (infomercial: Please apply! This year we run from June 4-13. And in case you’ve just returned from Mars, you should know that things have changed since you left. 2017 promises to be an especially interesting year.) And Ron and then Keith Seitter have generously allowed me to plug in across a wonderfully wide range of other AMS work.

You have your own truth to tell. How has the AMS changed your life? Please share your narrative, not just on this blog (although that would be great), but also with your friends and colleagues. We want to hear your story! And your story will prompt theirs.

While we’re all celebrating this history, we can lift a glass in the AMS direction. Maybe even contribute to the development fund, give back to AMS, help AMS pay it forward.

Excuse the personal digression. Next post, back to the fate of western civilization. 🙂

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