I had planned to use this month's Letter to extend my thanks, and I think that of all of you, to a number of people who deserve it. I could thank Kathy Siok for all the work she is doing on AstroAssembly. I could thank Bob Horton for all the work he is doing arranging fine meeting programs and chairing the Activities Committee. I could thank the Trustees for their hard work and dedication to preserving the Society's property. I could thank Bob Forgiel for tireless effort handling our public outreach programs. I could thank Dave Huestis for trying to catalog the various skills possessed by our members so that when we need help or advice we know who among us may have skills bearing on that need. I am not going to thank any of them, or others deserving of our gratitude, in this letter even though such thanks are richly earned, because two items of more immediacy require addressing.
The first of these is to bring to your attention a long article with photos of many Skyscrapers' members in Sky & Telescope magazine for August (p. 66-69), recounting the history of our Clark refractor and the extraordinary restoration it has undergone over the past few years. This is something all of our membership should take pride in, knowing that they all have access to such a gem of a telescope. If you don't subscribe it is worth looking at a copy of the August issue at your local library or news stand.
The second is the difficulty Dave Huestis is having fulfilling the request of the Board that we create and maintain an inventory of skills possessed by our membership. Only a very few members have returned the survey Dave prepared. In reflecting on why this might be it occurred to me that in this era of misuse of personal information you might feel the questions were an unreasonable invasion of your privacy. But really, what harm is likely to come from the Society knowing you are a wizard at controlling model trains and a pretty good electrician to boot, although you do neither for a living? Or that you are a star insurance executive for a successful brokerage. Or that you bake the world's best apple pie. Or that you are an electrical engineer who works hard at your profession but really got into it because you love tinkering. Or that you are a trained attorney who wishes you were really a veterinarian. Or that you are an internal auditor. Or a skilled carpenter. Or a botanist. Or, or, or …, well I think you get the idea.
Whether that was the reason so many did not participate, you might also have wondered why Skyscrapers needed the information. Knowing that these types of expertise exist within the organization is invaluable when a problem comes up and none in leadership positions has relevant experience to bring to bear. How much better it is for us to call on a trusted source for advice than to employ an outside “expert”, or just bluff our way through and hope for the best.
Of course you run the risk that if your skills are known you might be asked to do something for Skyscrapers. Well, so what? If you have the time wouldn't you help out? And if you don't, then “no” is the easiest to pronounce and earliest learned of English words. I assure you that any of the leaders who might have occasion to ask for your help are, themselves, so busy that they are completely sympathetic to you not having time to do anything more than maybe advance an opinion based on experience.
The other potential use for this information is to guide the Nominating Committee in who might be a reasonable candidate for office. Now in this case I freely admit some considerable work would be involved but see my comments about the use of “no” above. And wouldn't it be nice to know that some of your fellow members think highly enough of you to suggest that you should be one of the leaders?
I suppose there might be other reasons as well, but won't you please think it over and supply the kind of information suggested above? I assure you it won't be used to your detriment and won't be seen by anyone other than the Personnel Committee and a few Board members. In my relatively brief time on the Board there have been at least a dozen times when we have wondered aloud whether some member didn't have the skills to shed light on some issue before us.
Since I've departed from the form this Letter has taken recently I should go on and remind you that Dues are due the First of April. If you have paid them already, thank you, if this has slipped your mind please take care of it at your earliest convenience. Dues are an important source of the funds needed to cover the Society's expenses.
Thanks for all you do for Skyscrapers.