Jane Kelly

Pierre Ramond started his first term as president (mid-year, which was an oddity, but I didn’t know it at the time), and I began a steep learning curve, realizing that lattices weren’t something roses grew on, and trying desperately to remember that it’s “astronomy” not “astrology.” Sally had set up a very organized system and left the Center in great shape. The new office building would add a reception area and a meeting room, but the number of desks replaced by Hilbert Hall would remain the same. The Members thought the Center functioned at an optimum size and did not wish to increase it. This in the age where Bigger was too often considered Better.

So, winter was upon us. The new building was under construction and permanent financing was needed; the five-year NSF grant proposal was due in April, and here was Pierre, saddled with a total novice. Oh, and then the “normal” spring activities of the admissions process and housing procurement awaited. All this, and I had not even welcomed any summer participants! To Pierre’s credit, he patiently taught me the “business”; an Industrial Development Revenue Bond was arranged through Pitkin County, and the NSF grant proposal was written, submitted, and approved.

Summer arrived, and Pat Carey, who knew the physicists from many years, graciously guided me through potential housing pitfalls with unknown physicists. Deb Pease kept our bills paid, our books balanced and our audits clean. She also wrapped up the fundraising pledges. Later Gayle Godwin took charge of the front desk and honed the physicists' tennis skills.

Front from left, Pat Carey, Julie Pyne, Wendy Blakeslee. Back, Jane and Deb Pease

Almost everyone who participates at the Center seems to “get it.” They appreciate the rare mix of exceptional talent in their field with exceptional natural beauty in a relaxed atmosphere and are dedicated to protect and preserve it. The General Members and Trustees devote a much larger amount of time and energy, and are usually awarded for a job well done by more assignments. The Center is still run largely as it was originally conceived to operate, with just a few tweaks due to modern technology (individual cell phones instead of a loud speaker, laptops instead of a computer room, online journal access replacing a huge volume [in pounds and dollars!] of journals, LCD instead of overhead projector...). Long-term stays are encouraged; one-week stays are forbidden; desks are assigned randomly; the ditches still draw kids and sticks; new friends are made at the weekly BBQs; and Karen and Joe Villano continue to keep our offices and rental housing sparkling. We have added dialogues, Monday lemonade, kids’ picnics and physics cafés both in partnership with the Aspen Science Center, and Bernice Durand's weekly luncheons for female physicists.

Setting up at the weekly BBQ

Over the years, physicists have celebrated weddings in Aspen – Eric D’Hoker and Jody Enders on Aspen Mountain, Vicky Kalogera and Fred Rasio at the Bells. Sadly, several memorial services have been held at the Center for friends who have died too soon.

In between these life-changing occasions, we have partied! Paula Johnson, who is full of ideas and has the energy to carry them out (and a cellar stocked with camping, catering, and party supplies), orchestrates clever invitations. Patty Fox brings loads of enthusiasm to each endeavor and adds to the chain of ideas. Kelly Thomson and I are the enablers, helping to make these events happen. We had a luncheon in honor of Ramona and Jim Markalunas when they donated the Sundial. Instead of hosting just them and a few Physics Center VIPs to total around 20 people, we fed all the physicists who were here at the time – a total of about 100. We served a catered dinner to the Energy Forum participants in a tent erected in the volleyball court, had a drizzly picnic in the rain (and in Bethe) for the Founders and Pillars celebration, a Toklat dinner with cowboy poetry for the Board, birthday cake for the Aspen birth of string theory, celebrated Paul Ginsbarg’s 20-year anniversary of the arXiv filing system with another birthday party, and recently, watched the Transit of Venus on our campus with a telescope in the company of many astrophysicists.

Andy Cohen and Jane - when Andy was president he presided over some excellently fun staff meetings

With such celebrated people around, it’s impossible to resist the temptation to humble them with some good humor. When Pierre arrived one summer, he was assigned office #26. Our odd/even numbering system made for no office #26, so he found the number on the back wall, next to an exit sign and with a chair with a broken bottom. Andrei Ruckenstein, during his presidential term, was directed to his assigned housing at “360 Circle of Serenity”: the BBQ area with a pop-up tent and a camping composting toilet.

It has been an incredible experience to work among a community comprised of smart, clever, and fun people – staff and physicists!