Reminiscences of Janet A. Mattei, former director of the American Associations of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Reminiscences of Janet A. Mattei, former director of the American Associations of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
МИНИСТЕРСТВО ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ И НАУКИ УКРАИНЫ
НАЦИОНАЛЬНЫЙ ЛИНГВИСТИЧЕСКИЙ УНИВЕРСИТЕТ
Курсовая работа (на английском языке)
Reminiscences of Janet A. Mattei, former director
of the American Associations of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Term paper (in English)
Introduction: Janet Akyuz Mattei and the Aavso
Janet as a
Janet as the
Janet as a
friend and mother figure
Janet as a
force to be reckoned with
her career (1974-1984)
the past? (1985-1994)
unfinished but closed chapter
Mattei (1943-2004) and the AAVSO were meant to be part of each other's lives.
In 1969, Janet was teaching and working towards a Master of Science degree in
her native Turkey when she learned about the summer research program under Dr.
Dorrit Hoffleit at Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket. That year Janet was
introduced to variable stars and the AAVSO-and her future husband, Michael
Mattei-on Nantucket: variable stars in her research with Dorrit, and Mike and
the AAVSO through its meeting held there in October. A brilliant student and
young scientist of great promise with an outgoing and enthusiastic personality,
Janet was hired as AAVSO Director Margaret Mayall's assistant in 1972. When
Margaret decided to retire, Janet was selected by the AAVSO Council in October
1973 to succeed Margaret as Director, a position she held for over 30 years
until her death on March 22, 2004.
During those 30
years Janet worked unceasingly on behalf of the AAVSO, its members and
observers, and those who want to learn about astronomy and variable stars, and
to further the field of variable star astronomy. She strove continually to
teach the global astronomical and educational communities about the vital
contributions that amateur astronomers make to variable star astronomy. Over
and over again, in her talks she demonstrated how astronomers, educators, and
students could enhance their research through utilizing the talents of variable
star observers, the fruit of their labors-variable star observations-and the
unique resources the AAVSO offered.
equally hard to encourage amateur astronomers to participate in variable star
observing and research, to provide means for their learning information and
techniques to enable them to succeed and find enjoyment in variable star work,
and to see that they received recognition from the professional community for
their vital contributions. She also believed firmly in the potential of young
people, and supported and encouraged them however she could, including helping
them explore the excitement of astronomy and scientific research.
directorship took place during times of tremendous challenges and
opportunities: the advent of satellite astronomy, the evolution of computer
technology that opened up new vistas for communication and data management,
instrumentation advances that gave amateur astronomers access to observing
equipment only dreamed of before. Within the AAVSO itself, there were difficult
times early in the 1980s, the exciting acquisition of a permanent Headquarters
building, significant growth in the size of the staff, exponential growth in
the size of the AAVSO International Database. Janet rose to these challenges
and opportunities, staying flexible and open to new ideas and possibilities
while remaining unyielding on the integrity, quality, and reliability of the
AAVSO, its database, and its services and programs.
vision and leadership, the AAVSO evolved as the world around it evolved, and it
has prospered. Today's AAVSO-still evolving-participates in cutting-edge
variable star research, offers multiple observing programs to observers, is
strongly involved in education and public outreach, enjoys fruitful working
relationships with many other variable star organizations around the world, and
looks to the future for exciting new possibilities.
Director and scientist were only part of who Janet was. She was also spouse,
daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, colleague, mentor. She gave of
herself, her time, and her talents, and she felt honored and appreciative when
people gave to her. She filled people's lives with joy, excitement, and
satisfaction, and she rejoiced in the happiness and success of others. She told
people when she was pleased for them, and perhaps more importantly, when she
was concerned for them, and unfailingly asked-and honestly meant it-if she
could help in any way. We will miss the gracious, caring, and enthusiastic
bundle of energy that was Janet, with the smile in her voice, the kind word,
the insightful comment, the big picture always in mind.
enormously proud of the AAVSO and its members and observers. We were enormously
proud of Janet, and we are grateful to her for giving herself to the AAVSO with
such devotion, and for leaving us her personal legacy of striving for
excellence, dedication, and compassion.
A View of Janet
Mattei, from the Headquarters Staff
Most of you
probably already know that Janet was a very energetic person. This was true no
matter the time of day, and the early workday morning was no exception. Every
day, like clockwork, Janet would open the door to the office and would call out
her energetic and resounding greeting, "Good Morning." No matter what
was going on, and even if it hadn't been a great morning thus far, you were
suddenly aware of the burst of positive energy that had just walked through the
door. You didn't have to see her face to know that she was smiling, it just
came through in her voice. If you had not made eye contact with Janet on her
entrance, she was sure to wish you a personal "good morning" upon her
initial contact with you for the day. This was always true for the staff
partitioned off in the library, where her cheerful daily greeting could not be
heard. Therefore, a special, "Good Morning, Ladies" was always bid to
Kate and Gamze. After setting her things in her office and getting her cup for
her morning tea, she would always proceed to ask the general question,
"How is everyone this morning?" as she crossed the office, genuinely
concerned about everyone's well-being.
lasted throughout the day, and was evident through the distinct sound of her
footsteps. Although Janet was small in stature, her fast and powerful footfalls
always gave her away. They burst with energy, much like Janet herself. Mike and
Sara, who work downstairs, say they always knew when Janet was walking about
above them because her steps were unlike any others.
Janet was also
known for working very late at the office, often times staying overnight to
finish a project or prepare for a meeting. Her energetic dedication was
unrivaled. She did whatever it took to get the job done. This devotion not only
applied to Janet's in-office work ethic, but it applied outside as
well-literally. One wintry night a terrible winter snow storm had been
forecast. Worried about driving home, Janet decided to stay in a hotel near the
office. The next morning when Matt arrived at work planning to do some snow
removal, he was stunned to see that Janet had already made the trip back to the
office and had shoveled the entire walkway out in front of Headquarters-of all
24 inches of snow!
If Janet didn't
have a photographic memory, she had something that was very close to it. Give
her the name of a variable star and she could tell you the specific date,
author, and title of an article on a subj ect that you were just
"wondering" about. Her internet-like memory was not limited to variable
stars, but also encompassed information about AAVSO members and observers. For
instance, there was one time when she was out of the office and called
Headquarters to find out somebody's phone number. Travis read her the number,
to which she replied, "No, that's not right, that's his old number."
Travis, thinking to himself, "how could she possibly know if that is the
wrong number with out dialing it, especially when she barely knows this
person?" went to go find the updated number. Sure enough he found out that
it was indeed the old number and when giving Janet the new one she said,
"Yes, this is the right one."
Janet also had
a terrific sense of humor that could often be seen through the unique twinkle
in her eye and a great child-like grin. Once Travis leaned into her office and
asked if she wanted anything from a local store for lunch. She told him that
she would like "a salad from the salad bar." So Travis, feeling a bit
overwhelmed by the fact that he had no idea what she liked on her salad, asked her
if there was anything in particular she wanted. To this she replied, "oh
anything," and as Travis turned to leave, she added, "and your job is
riding on it." Janet was, of course, smiling like a Cheshire cat while
saying this. Realizing that he had been the subject of some of Janet's light
humor, Travis laughed-eventually.
charismatic personality, Janet had a way of pulling people in to listen to what
she had to say. Often times, she would come out of her office into the
"big room" and start talking about something to no one in particular,
but by the end of what she was saying, most people were engaged and it had
transformed into an office-wide discussion. Perhaps it was an unusual method,
but it was effective in getting a consensus on a matter, which is probably what
she was trying to do anyway.
Janet had an incredible talent for making us all feel that we, and the work
that we were doing, were truly valued. No matter how big or small the task, she
always made sure to give her thanks upon completion of a given duty. Often
times she'd suggest going out and having a celebratory dinner in honor of
completing a special project. Although the celebrations didn't always happen
because of busy schedules-Janet, Elizabeth, Margaret Mayall, and Charles Scovil
never got around to the planned steak and champagne dinner celebrating
completion of the AAVSO Variable Star Atlas (they ended up having crackers for
dinner in the office as the last "day" of the project dragged on into
the wee hours of the morning) - the fact that she had suggested a special event
signified her deep gratitude. Janet's appreciation was also clearly evident
come payday at the AAVSO. In most offices, paychecks often come from a
"Human Resources" department and are distributed without much verbal
exchange. At the AAVSO, however, they always came directly from Janet's hand,
whereby she was sure to make distinct eye contact while offering a sincere
Janet was more
thanjust aboss to us. Sometimes she was a friend and sometimes she was more of
a mother figure. She always cared for each of us individually and no matter how
crazy her schedule got, or what was going on in her life, Janet always took
time to take a personal interest in our lives and our families.
concerned about our well-being, Janet always had the uncanny ability to find a
cure for whatever ailment we had. She knew of certain remedies and would
dispense her knowledge like a sage. Always ready with a hefty supply of Vitamin
С or Echinacea for anyone who suggested they might be getting sick, Janet also
had a special fondness for one particular remedy called "Airborne."
If you haven't heard of this stuff you might want to buy stock. Janet spread
the good word about these immune boosting tablets that prevent one from getting
sick which, as we all know, is much better than getting sick in the first
place. Her conviction prompted a lot of us to go to our nearest drug store and
buy out their supply (that is, if Janet hadn't already swiped the shelves
clean). Kate admits to keeping two bottles of the stuff at home and wouldn't
think of stepping foot on an airplane without some in her system.
If she could
not fend off your ailment, Janet always had a backup plan. Another of her
miracle cures was contained in a mysterious bottle labeled "China
Oil" that resided in the medicine chest of the ladies room. On separate
occasions and to different people Janet suggested using this stuff to gargle
away a sore throat, to get rid of a cold sore, fight nasal congestion, banish a
pimple, and to relieve arthritic pain. The scary thing is that it actually
worked for all these things! Yes, that is China Oil... don't know what it is,
don't know why it is. just know that it works!
Janet not only
thought about us when we were ailing, but when we were in good health as well.
She was always excited about any special events happening in our lives. She
would make a point of asking how a particular dinner may have gone, how your
house guests were doing, and so on. She was always just as proud and as curious
about our lives outside of the office. She would happily go to Rebecca and
Sarah's plays, attend Elizabeth's and Sara's concerts, and whatever else she
could do, in her limited spare time, to show her support. She was truly happy
when good things happened for us, such as when Kerri told Janet that she was
pregnant. Overcome with joy, Janet literally jumped out of her chair, clapped
her hands, and exclaimed, "I'm so glad you did it!"
always important dates for Janet. Almough we would have a little office
celebration with cake and a gift for the staff birthday person, Janet would
always pull you aside afterwards to give you a special gift that she had gotten
for you personally. Tokens of her generosity are displayed throughout the
office and throughout our homes, and hold a special place in our memories.
Perhaps the most memorable birthday present of all was when Janet arranged for
a belly dancer to show up at AAVSO volunteer Katherine Hazen 's 80th birthday
party at Headquarters. Aside from stopping passers-by in the window, it was a
great surprise and delight. Janet certainly knew how to throw excitement into a
personal relationships with the staff, Janet also forged bonds with our
families. Although our loved ones may have never met Janet, they are well aware
of her thoughtfulness through the sweets, flowers, cards, magazines, and more
that she sent home with us. After hearing about how much Kate's family enjoyed
a gift of Turkish Delight sent home with her during the holiday season, Janet
made sure to stock Kate up with treats before leaving for her native Atlanta.
Usually the gift was a box of Turkish Delight but sometimes it was fresh made
Baklava, which Kate's mother loved. A testament to Janet's generosity occurred
in December of 2003 when Janet was at the Spaulding Center for rehabilitation.
While Kate was visiting, she told Kate to open up her cabinet and look on the
third shelf. Sure enough, there was a box of Turkish Delight there ready for
the trip to Atlanta for Christmas. In fact, there were boxes for all the staff
members for the holidays! Kate's family came to know Janet through her gifts,
and through correspondence, Janet and Kate's mom formed a relationship. But
this is not a unique example. This was Janet's typical style - making friends
and forging relationships with almost everyone that she encountered.
knows, Janet was born and raised in Turkey. She came to the U. S. in 1962, and
moved here permanently around 1969. She was fluent in both Turkish and English,
but because she knew these two languages so well sometimes certain phrases
would come out in-well, not exactly English, and not exactly Turkish, but
something that we fondly referred to as Turklish. Here are some of our favorite
expressions that Janet would sometimes use:
saying, "That would be like opening a can of worms" Janet would say,
"That would be like opening a bag of worms,''' which we all agree is a bit
more disturbing and graphic than a can, so probably a better expression anyway.
saying, "thinking out loud," Janet would sometimes say "talking
out loud," which at last check is really the only way to talk.
saying "in the ballpark" she would say, "in the
ballpoint"-probably a smaller area than she had in mind, but you get the
saying, "out of the pan and into the fire" she would say, "out
of the fire and into the pan," which could be a worse situation... .
saying, "burning the midnight oil," which she often did herself, she
would say "burning the midnight candle." This is a splice of"
burning the midnight oil" with "burning the candle at both
favorite was when instead of saying, "the squeaky wheel gets the
grease" she would say, "squeaky grease!" and she would say it
emphatically as in "the nerve of that squeaky grease!!"
A last and
perhaps most humorous example of Janet's Turklish, was when, instead of
inviting a visiting Post doc candidate to go into the library, take off his
coat, and relax until she could be with him, she actually said, "go to the
library, sit down, take your shirt off." She quickly realized her mistake
and burst into a big smile. Luckily the post doc had a good sense of humor and
we all laughed, but what an ice-breaker!
Aside from the
Turklish, Janet was certainly very well spoken, well traveled, and a truly
internationally-minded person. There was no name, be it French, Japanese, or
Russian, that she could not pronounce. However for some reason there was one
that she never was able to get quite right. You could tell that it was coming
up in a sentence (usually at an AAVSO meeting) when her normally steadily paced
speech would slow down to a halt as she said, for example, "and our next
observer award goes to..." She would peer out with a sheepish grin as she
said, "Gerry" very slowly and then paused. Invariably a resounding
"SAMOLYK" would be heard from most of the smiling audience. Of course
all of this would be followed up not just with a certificate and a handshake,
but with Janet's trademark heartfelt hug. We all know it was the hug that
memories of Janet often involve her beaming smile and cheerful enthusiasm, she
could also get down to business and be quite intimidating when she needed to.
Once when she
and Gamze were walking back to Janet's car after a lunch out of the office,
they noticed a tow truck picking up a car that looked a lot like Janet's. As
they realized that it was indeed her car, Janet took off yelling at the tow
truck driver demanding that he lower her vehicle. After several minutes of
demonstrative gesturing and debate, the car was lowered and the ladies were on
surprise of a would-be thief when caught in Janet's hotel room by her while she
was attending a meeting in Paris. While most victims would turn the other way
and go for help, Janet approached the perpetrator herself and proceeded to
chase the villain-Janet wearing high heels, mind you-down the hall until the
pursuit ended when the door to the thief's sure-fire get away turned out to be
high-speed, high-heeled chases on foot were not the only civic duties Janet
participated in. One night when she, Gamze, and Kerri returned from a working
dinner, they noticed a car parked adjacent to AAVSO Headquarters with the trunk
slightly ajar and keys dangling from its lock. Janet, acting as a sleuth,
opened the trunk and investigated for any suspicious activity. Satisfied that
no foul play had taken place, Janet shut the trunk and took the keys for safe
keeping. Instead of notifying the police, Janet left a note on the car stating
that the owner should contact her if they wanted the keys to be returned.
Working late that night, Janet bravely answered the call to return the keys to
their rightful owner. As it turned out, the scene was not a CSI Cambridge
mystery, but rather just a simple case of someone forgetting their keys.
So far, we have
mentioned several funny anecdotes that make us smile when we remember what a
lively, fun, and caring person Janet was. But her influence runs much deeper
than that. She enriched our lives as a leader, a teacher, and a mentor.
served as an important mentor to many staff members. She treated us all with
the same respect she treated her professional colleagues and was always
available to answer questions and give advice, even when working late. Many
AAVSO staff members or volunteers have gone on to become very successful
had a way of looking at the bright side of things. When seemingly difficult
times would be upon us, she would often say, "this, too, shall pass."
Unfortunately, Janet, our sadness will not pass, but since you would advise us
to look on the bright side, we are all better people for having had you, your
kindness, your wisdom, and your influence in our lives. Thank you, Janet!
I will never
forget sitting for a few minutes in the dark on a bench in the Maria Mitchell
Observatory having a pleasant discussion with a charming young Turkish girl
about her experiences in the United States up to that time in 1969. However,
when I learned a few years later this same young girl was replacing Margaret
Mayall as the AAVSO Director, my first reaction was one of stunned surprise, in
fact dismay. Janet was fairly invisible to me as a rank and file member during
her first five years. Thus, at the time I was first elected to the AAVSO
Council in 1978, I was somewhat negative about her as the AAVSO Director. My
attitude would soon change.
I have had to
rely on others to tell me about that first five to eight years of Janet's
tenure as the Director. I am grateful to Janet's close personal friends and
confidants, Dorrit Hoffleit and Martha Hazen, and to Charles Scovil, George
Fortier, and Marv Baldwin, the first three AAVSO presidents that Janet worked
with as director, and to John Bortle, an outstanding observer, all of whom
generously shared time and their thoughts with me.
Anyone who has
had the unique experience of taking over command in any organization, large or
small, can likely imagine the feelings that Janet must have had on the first
day after she took control of the keys to the office at 187 Concord Avenue in
Cambridge. She had worked in the AAVSO office for less than a year. Of the
individuals she knew there, only Margaret Mayall and Dorrit Hoffleit could have
seemed like friends that she could rely on for help. That thought no doubt gave
Janet an uneasy feeling. Furthermore, the way things ran then, as now, the
AAVSO's officers did not spend a lot of time helping the director with her
work. Furthermore, interest in variable stars was increasing both among
observers and among the professionals, so both the observations from amateurs
and the questions from professionals were coming in faster than ever.
Those first few
years must have seemed like a nightmare for Janet. During the day she was in
the office responding to calls, answering questions, and plotting data by hand.
In the late 1960s, Margaret initiated coding of all current observations on
punched cards but the work was going slowly and made no real contribution to
the daily work in the office. Indeed, Margaret had continued to plot all
incoming observations manually, with a pencil on paper, so she could respond to
questions that arose about specific AAVSO program stars, mainly the long period
variables. Janet attempted to follow in Margaret's footsteps in this way, but
she also spent many nights at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)
computing center attempting to debug programs to plot the punched card data as
If Janet had
any reservations about how to perform her job, it was not evident from the way
she handled things from the start. In a 1975 letter to Marv Baldwin, Janet
opened with a very cordial introduction and her thanks for all past efforts, a
few other pleasantries, and then urged Marv to get things done "with a lot
of hard nosed arm twisting." Marv characterized this as typical of Janet's
style for the rest of her career.
Margaret MayalPs footsteps was not made easier by the fact that a transition
from the Old Guard to a new order in the AAVSO was increasingly being demanded
by some members. An example of this pressure, which had arisen well before
Margaret retired, can be seen in the movement for increased member
communications that was in progress as Janet became director. An informal newsletter,
Variable Views, published by AAVSO member Carolyn Hurless from her Lima, Ohio
home, was very successful in promoting communication among some members but was
completely outside headquarters control and not always appreciated there. An
aggressive group of members-the "Fairfield Four": Clint Ford, Charles
Scovil, John Bortle, and Wayne Lowder-decided that the AAVSO needed several new
types of more formal communication with its members. They undertook two new
publications-The Journal of the AAVSO (JAAVSO), and the AA VSO Circular-both of
which were edited, printed, and distributed from the Stamford Observatory in
Fairfield County, Connecticut. Thus, neither Margaret, nor Janet as her
successor, had complete control over the content of these off-site publications,
though both reserved the right to review any publication that bore the AAVSO
The Journal of
the AAVSO (JAAVSO), edited initially by William and Florence Glenn, did fill a
very real need. However, as a technical journal claiming to represent the
Association to the variable star community around the world it was a constant
source of concern for Janet. The AAVSO Circular edited by John Bortle was
welcomed for its monthly feedback by many members who were interested in
cataclysmic and irregular variables, but the problems for headquarters were the
When the Glenns
resigned as editors of the JAAVSO in 1974, Janet had her first opportunity to
begin dealing constructively with the problem created by these initiatives.
After the AAVSO Council appointed Charles Whitney to the journal editorship,
Janet began gradually to move activities related to the journal into
headquarters. Production of the first JAAVSO issues at headquarters in
Cambridge took place in 1975, and has been handled there since. Janet used the
opportunity to replace the JAAVSO editor successfully to begin the major
changes needed in headquarters staffing and organization, a process that
continued throughout her tenure as director.
"Fairfield Four" were also responsible for initiating the preparation
of the AAVSO Variable Star Atlas, a project that was sorely needed, but again
outside the ability of the limited headquarters staff to monitor or manage. In
addition, the atlas project precipitated another crisis when AAVSO Treasurer
Richard Davis resigned in a mid-term dispute involving handling of the Atlas.
His resignation created a vacuum that Newton May all filled for a few years.
However, Newton over-supervised Janet, stretching their relationship to the
breaking point. Janet handled this effectively by recruiting Ted Wales as
The main point
I want to leave you with here is that there was an enormous amount of turmoil
under the placid surface that was the public face of the AAVSO in those days.
The ever-smiling, charming young Turkish girl turned out to be just as tough
and politically savvy as anyone involved, and she needed to be just that.
After 1 was
elected to the AAVSO Council in 1978 and started learning what the Director's
job was all about, I came to value Janet's contributions to the organization
ever more highly. I will never forget the trip from The Espousal Conference
Center in Waltham, Massachusetts, to Logan airport after the 1980 Fall Meeting.
lt was my first ride in a car with Janet driving, and a hair-raising experience
is the only way to characterize it. On that wild ride I first learned to
appreciate Janet's concerns for the future, her desire to make the AAVSO her
career, and her uncertainty about whether AAVSO would work to keep her. She
expressed her concerns about the need for a permanent and much larger
headquarters. She was already planning for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the
AAVSO, an event that was still five years away, and hoped to have headquarters
settled in a new building before then. This was, to say the least, an ambitious
and challenging goal for someone with her limited experience-entirely
characteristic of Janet.
faced some fairly intimidating technical challenges as well as the early
administrative and political problems. One type of request from professional
astronomers for technical support seemed to her to offer exceptional
opportunities, coordinating observing programs with orbiting observatories.
Professional astronomers managing orbiting observatories needed both predictions
of events in cataclysmic variables (CVs) and real-time alerts when a
brightening did occur. With some help from John Bortle, Janet quickly became
skilled in predicting eruptions. By recruiting observers to provide real-time
alerts and by making herself available to receive their notification calls at
all hours of the day and night, Janet fashioned an active support program that
continues to function well to this day. Her success in this program was largely
responsible for the increased awareness and acceptance of the AAVSO within the
professional community that we now enjoy. France Cordova announced to the world
at the 1979 AAVSO annual meeting that an SS Cygni maximum that had been
predicted by Janet, and then detected by AAVSO observers, had been observed in
X-rays-the first time the observation of X-rays coincided with a transient
event in a visually observed astronomical object. No one who was present will
likely forget the electrifying excitement felt by proud AAVSO members, most of
all by Janet, when that announcement was made.
Headquarters continued to process current monthly observations, and to enter
all the backlogged observations. The project experienced short term but
frustrating delays with new computer programs and data entry technology.
Progress was slow and the work was tedious. It would be difficult to
over-estimate the frustrations that Janet felt most of the time. Progress was
being made nearly continuously, but not fast enough to satisfy some members.
Even more frustrating must have been the routine and crushing expectations from
some members that nothing would change from the way that the AAVSO had always
been under two prior directors. That expectation could be seen in constant
demands that the next edition of the long period variables report be published
while Janet was still struggling with the detailed editing of the data and with
automatic plotting of the long period light curves.
As Janet became
more successful with the data management programs, boxes of computer cards piled
up in the office. Stacks of boxes served as partitions, supported impromptu
tables, blocked daylight from coming through the windows and gathered dust.
Then, just before the Spring meeting in 1984, a fire broke out in the apartment
over the AAVSO office at 187 Concord Avenue. Fortunately for the AAVSO, there
was no damage downstairs, but the event served as a wake-up call for the
Council as it met in Ames, Iowa, that spring. When the Council realized that
its most precious assets were thousands of pieces of paper that were decaying
in wooden filing cabinets and thousands of boxes containing punched paper
cards, it was clear that would have to move to a more secure location to
preserve those assets. At the same time the Council decided to accelerate the
magnetization of the data contained on all that paper so it could be duplicated
and preserved. This plunged the staff into a long campaign to upgrade computer
systems to bring all data processing and plotting into headquarters to support
the accelerated program, and employment of additional staff in offices that
were already overcrowded. The goal, to complete the data entry and validation
of all the archived data (1911-1967), seemed achievable in a short period given
this renewed commitment of resources.
coaching from Janet, Clint Ford gave the word that a search for new quarters
should proceed on the basis of finding a permanent headquarters building that
he would purchase and donate to the Association. At that point Janet was
leading the organization across an important bridge in its history as well as
in her own.
As soon as she
got the word from Clint, Janet solicited help from 2nd vice president Keith
Danskin, who soon located an ideal property at 25 Birch Street, in Cambridge.
Adjacent to the offices of Sky & Telescope magazine, and still comfortably
close to the Harvard College/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatories, the
building was the right size and retained the identical postal code. Clint
visited the building, agreed it was the right choice, and negotiated the
purchase. However, as the negotiations for the mortgage and the purchase of the
property were in their final stages, a dispute broke out in the Council that
threatened the entire plan. President Ernst Mayer was strongly opposed to any
transaction that obligated the AAVSO to a mortgage even though Clint signed a
separate contract with the AAVSO agreeing to fund the mortgage payments. Mayer
refused to sign the mortgage papers at the last minute. Janet had to arrange
for other officers to replace Mayer at the closing. The incident precipitated
Mayer's effective resignation from the presidency; he eventually resigned from
the association completely, a tragic loss of a brilliant observer. Thus the
Headquarters building acquisition was not without its cost in human terms.
following year, Janet and an AAVSO committee dedicated the headquarters
building as the Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center as part
of the AAVSO's 75th anniversary celebration. Professional and amateur
astronomers attended from all over the world. The celebration was a fitting
climax to Janet's dream of over six years. The dedication speaker, Dr. Ricardo
Giaconni, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, accepted this
assignment because of his admiration for Janet, and the AAV SO's record of
contributions to X-ray and orbiting observatory astronomy. It should be noted
that the previous year, 1985, was the last year that U. S. observers
contributed over half of the total observations for the year. Under Janet's
leadership, the AAVSO evolved slowly into an international organization.
year, AAVSO members became aware of Janet's growing international stature in
several ways. First, she served as one of the professional organizers of an IAU
Colloquium on professional and amateur cooperation in astronomy. During that
Paris meeting, the Societe Astronomique de France awarded Janet their Gold
Medal for her international leadership in variable star astronomy. Janet was
invited to the Leiden Observatory immediately after the Paris meeting to
address the Dutch astronomical society. It was evident by 1987 that Janet was
an international celebrity, at least in variable star astronomy. This soon led
to an invitation from the Belgian astronomers who offered to organize the
AAVSO's first international meeting in Brussels. By the time that meeting took
place in 1990, the international observations amounted to two-thirds of the
annual total added to the AAVSO's now truly international variable star
It was also in
this period that we held our first recent joint meetings with the American
Astronomical Society, first in Columbus, Ohio (1992), and then in Berkeley,
California (1993). These joint meetings were scheduled to give AAVSO members
convenient access to professional astronomers who were practicing CCD
photometry and mark the advent of CCDs in AAVSO observing.
continued to be a crucial issue to which Janet was forced to devote time and
energy. She led a fund raising effort in the Council, published monographs as a
means of promoting more gifts to the AAVSO, and even took on the Hands-On
Astrophysics educational project as another way of enhancing our cash flow.
Clint Ford's unfortunate death in 1992 created the prospect of an inheritance,
but did not relieve the AAVSO's financial problem in the short term.
death, one of the things that became possible, however, was that Janet was
freed to initiate a detailed look at what the future held for the AAVSO-the
first time such a detailed planning exercise had been undertaken on the
Association's behalf. The Futures Study, in effect, marked Janet's final
release from the past and turned her gaze to the enhancement of AAVSO research
and services to its membership.
that Janet led in the AAVSO in her third decade as AAVSO director are more
apparent and do not require much elaboration. One of the things that stands out
is the extent of her maturity as a leader. She led the AAVSO in that third
decade in ways that were somewhat unimaginable for anyone who had been around
for the previous two decades. The AAVSO survived a period of short funds while
waiting for the Ford inheritance, delayed for several years by a legal
challenge to his estate. Outside recognition came to Janet through many
avenues. She was elected to the board of directors of the Astronomical Society
of the Pacific. Two prestigious awards were given to her-the Van Biesbroeck
award of the American Astronomical Society (1993), and the Jackson-Gwilt medal
and prize of the Royal Astronomical Society (1995).
Many changes in
the AAVSO were made possible with grant funding that flowed as a result of
Janet's increased stature among variable star astronomers. Consider, for
example, how quickly AAVSO moved into the internet with very modern and
up-to-date web-based utilities funded substantially from grants. Of course we
had to have the technical horsepower on our staff in Headquarters to scale
those mountains. What is amazing about all that, though, is not what skilled
staff like Aaron Price can do, they work wonders. The fact is that Janet was
able to employ them, and reacted quickly and support! vely to their
suggestions. Our capability is enormously enhanced as a result. The pace at
which Doug West was allowed and encouraged to move into Near-IR photometry is
another clear example, as are the growing numbers of CCD observations in our
database. Things could not have happened this quickly in earlier years; it is a
clear reflection of Janet's growing maturity as a manager that they happened at
all. The most amazing of all such projects is the program of chart
modernization. Janet may not have been too happy with the way that successful
project emerged, but by now she was wise enough not to stand in front of a
train that was long overdue.
best example of Janet's maturing management skills was the AAVSO involvement in
high-energy astrophysics through the cataclysmic variables programs, and then
through our rapid movement into the gamma-ray burster program. In a very short
period of time, Janet got the grants, allocated the funds to the purchase of
necessary equipment, facilitated the professional and amateur cooperation, and
watched the results finally begin to flow. There is a certain comfortable irony
to the fact that Janet had just come home from what had to be, for her, a very
satisfying meeting. Our second high-energy astrophysics workshop with NASA and
our third major international meeting, this time a "Pan-Pacific"
meeting in Hawaii, occurred shortly before she learned of her illness that was
"unfinished but closed chapter"-what do I mean by that? Well, in the
final analysis, it was Janet's own insecurity that prompted her continuous
striving for perfection, a striving that at times brought things nearly to a
halt in headquarters because she would not allow others to complete tasks like
the final editing and approval of the journal. She was never able to overcome that
feeling that she had to be perfect. It was this striving that got so many good
things done so well, but there is a terrible price one pays for that insecurity
in the later years of life. In a very large measure, Janet's work at the AAVSO
was already done; she was successful beyond anyone's prediction, including her
own at the time she was employed as director.
There is still
much to be done on past problems and so many new opportunities. But that is not
what I mean by "the unfinished but closed chapter." If you have never
experienced it, you may find it hard to imagine the tremendous satisfaction
that one feels when handing over the keys to an office, and walking out for the
last time, knowing that you have achieved a great deal doing the best that you could.
For Janet it might not be overstating the case to say that it was the best that
anyone could have done. That she was never able to step back, to retire, and be
acknowledged for her achievements, to receive the final accolades for all that
went into her wonderful career-that, in my humble opinion, is the real tragedy
of her premature death, that she was not allowed to draw that chapter to a
It was Janet
Akyuz Mattei, that charming energetic determined young Turkish girl we hired in
late 1973, who put the AAVSO into high gear. No one who has ever taken a ride
in a car with Janet driving could miss the metaphor involved, but what a wild
and wonderful ride this past 30 years has been. May she finally rest in peace
with the certain knowledge that her outstanding achievements as the leader of
the AAVSO over that thirty-year period cannot and will not be forgotten.