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Family Matters

 Celebrating Jonathan on the Green

(Photo - Andrea Chan speaks on the SLAC Green during 'Let's Celebrate Jonathan')

At the July 24, 2008, event Let's Celebrate Jonathan, LCLS team member Andrea Chan thanked Jonathan Dorfan for his service to SLAC staff. A transcript of her talk follows.

Some of you may be asking ‘Who is Andrea Chan, and why is she speaking at this event?’

I am the many support staff members working at SLAC every day, believing in this exciting research. I am glad that at Jonathan’s Celebration there is an opportunity for me to give voice on our behalf to thank him for all that he has done for the staff.

With the future of SLAC in mind

I would like to recall some details of how Jonathan contributed to SLAC’s long term future early on, long before he became Lab Director. Some of you might remember that there were a few years in the early 1990s when SLAC’s future was uncertain. The SLC was folding down, the NLC was in the future, and there was no approved High Energy Physics project at SLAC to bridge the gap.

It was in those times that Jonathan recruited me to join the PEP-II R&D effort. I had asked him then whether PEP-II had a chance or was he asking me to join a futile effort. He quietly replied that he himself had other job offers that he had turned down. He said he believed that it was only with a PEP-II project being funded at SLAC that the lab had a healthy future. Notice that he did not answer the question whether this was a futile effort. The PEP-II R&D effort at the time was fewer than two dozen people and a lot of ‘volunteers’, and was centered around the old Research Division Group C. After another 2 years of working on the PEP-II R&D, I remember Jonathan gathering us in a meeting and announcing that, without Congress committing to funding PEP-II as a project, we could probably go on with the R&D effort for only one more year.

Well, as we all know, in late 1993 PEP-II actually got funded as a project at SLAC. PEP-II and BABAR ushered in a long period, over a decade, of stable high energy physics construction and operations at SLAC.

Currently there are many changes going on at SLAC with the funding switch from High Energy Physics to Basic Energy Sciences. Having an appreciation for the past long period of stability at SLAC brought about by PEP-II and BABAR, as well as for Jonathan’s early role in bringing this to reality, helps us put things in perspective.

Most treasured about Jonathan

One of the things that stood out to the staff about Jonathan is that he really listened to the ordinary people in the trenches. When he saw you, he would ask ‘How are things going?’ – and he actually wanted to know. He had this ubiquitous notebook, and he would write things down as we rattled off items needing fixing or as we rattled off suggestions. I am not sure how many of these notebooks he accumulated or what his filing system was. But it does amaze me that Jonathan could always find in his notebooks the items that we listed from previous meetings.

To the staff, when Jonathan said that ‘people are SLAC’s most important resource’, we perceived that he really meant this. This was what endeared Jonathan to so many of us. He knew so many of us personally, as individuals. He was so accessible. He was so kind. You felt that you could be honest in what you said to him without suffering repercussions, because he was genuinely interested in troubleshooting problems and was never too proud to take advice – no matter where it came from.

Jonathan took the time to give the staff the big picture of the science with his periodic ‘All Hands’ talks. When official communications channels were found to be lacking, he set up the Communications Task Force, then the Communications Department. Under his tutelage, SLAC Today was set up as a means to help the staff with internal communications. One of the first things he did as Director was also to set up the ‘Respectful Workplace Policy’, which says that even if you are a big shot, you must treat fellow staff members with respect.

Valuing the contributions of others was a key ingredient in all the successful collaborations that Jonathan led. The way that he paid attention to the details was what told us that Jonathan was not simply giving lip service to this. For example, although PEP-II was sited at SLAC, it was constructed by a collaboration of the 3 labs – LBNL, LLNL and SLAC. Jonathan arranged the location of the meetings to rotate amongst the 3 labs, and Jonathan and his team would drive all over the Bay Area rather than only subjecting the other labs to travel to SLAC. Jonathan would also make sure that the names of the 3 labs were prominently displayed on all of the PEP-II logos and shirts. Terry Anderson, who was helping PEP-II with graphics, and I remember this well, since right around 1995, LBL changed its name to LBNL, which then affected all the PEP-II logos.

Through the many hectic PEP-II years that I have known Jonathan when his two daughters were growing up, he would leave the lab promptly each evening to go home to dinner with his family. Then at night he would come back to his office to work, and be sending out e-mails into the wee hours. So for Jonathan, family matters, and we were his bigger family. To him, getting the job done, but also how one goes about getting the job done, are both important.

For the support staff members, long after the significance of any particular scientific or technical debate has faded away, what one remembers most about Jonathan’s leadership are these values that he imparted to us.

Jonathan, thank you for wanting to convince us to do the right thing, rather than simply pulling rank from top down. Thank you for making SLAC a place where people took initiative, cared about each other, and were valued. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this period at SLAC.

Jonathan, the message that we want to send to you is that you are the best thing to us since sliced bread!

―Andrea Chan, 24 July 2008