The Best Mentor in the Universe

Wish him well as he retires.
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Lynn Cominsky

The Best Mentor in the Universe

Post by Lynn Cominsky » Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:04 pm

Dear Steve,
When I think back over my career in astronomy outreach, it always begins with you. The first time we met was when you selected me (and Larry) to participate in a panel discussion on small telescopes used by undergraduates. It was our bad luck to immediately follow the session that included the stunning retraction of the pulsar planet by Andrew Lyne, so that all the reporters had already left the room to cover real breaking news! Nevertheless, I was hooked, and when you subsequently visited the HEAD Executive meeting to ask for volunteers to serve as the first HEAD press officer, I was thrilled at the opportunity. Of course I did not know what I was getting into, so I followed you around the 1986 San Antonio meeting where Geoff Marcy announced his first exoplanet results, and I thought it would always be that exciting. After several years in which I reinvented wheels and created media telecons to get the word out about high-energy news, our working relationship deepened when you decided that Larry and I should become the first AAS Deputy Press Officers. I guess you figured that one of the qualifications for this job was to be from Buffalo!

Over the next decade I learned so much from you about how to choose and pitch good stories, how to prepare scientists for press conferences, how to write press releases, and to keep a sense of humor while things got sticky. And of course, how to deal gracefully with embargo breaks, badly behaved scientists and numerous complaints. Although I have never gotten very good at punning, I have enjoyed listening to yours, and i cherish the friendship that we have developed through the years. You have singlehandedly put astronomy press on the map, greatly increasing the popularity of all things cosmological. It is sad that so many of our pressroom stalwarts have left for other (not necessarily greener) pastures, and that science reporting is not the career it once was. So it is a good time to be getting out of the press business (not that we were ever paid to do these things) and into other endeavors. I wish you well with your ongoing book writing, and if Astronomy For Dummies is any indication, your words and puns will be around for a long time into the future. You were the best mentor I have ever had, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities that I had to work with you on publicizing the stars - the real stars, of course!
Oh, and you know you can always call me the next time you are having computer problems and I will be there :lol:
Best wishes on a great retirement - lynnc

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