AICAD Past Chair, Walter Massey, appointed Board Chair of Giant Magellan Telescope Organization

Photo of Walter Massey

November 16, 2016
Bree Witt, Director of Public Relations, SAIC

The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) today announced the appointment of SAIC Chancellor Walter E. Massey to the position of chair of the GMTO Board of Directors. Along with Taft Armandroff, who was announced as vice chair, Massey will guide the GMTO Board of Directors, overseeing the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in the Chilean Andes and working to complete the partnership of universities, research institutions and private donors who will contribute to the construction and operation of the GMT.

Poised to be the first of a new generation of extremely large telescopes, the GMT will be the largest optical telescope in the world when it comes online in 2022.

“With his exceptional leadership and wisdom Dr. Massey will guide the GMTO Board with a steady hand as the telescope moves through the construction phase,” said Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt, vice chancellor of the Australian National University. “Dr. Massey has an outstanding record of enabling breakthrough science through stewardship of major research facilities, including the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).”

With more than 40 years of leadership in science and education, Massey will transition from a board member to chair, and he will be responsible for supervision of the management team and charting the strategy and direction for the organization. Massey brings experience as a consistent voice for scientific advancement and was notably involved in the ambitious LIGO project. Twenty-five years after he ensured approvals and financial support for the project in his former role as director of the National Science Foundation, LIGO announced the discovery of gravitational waves. Massey has held various other leadership roles in science and academia including president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), director of the Argonne National Laboratory, vice president for research and professor of physics at the University of Chicago, professor of physics and dean of the college at Brown University, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs for the University of California system and president of Morehouse College. He is currently the chancellor of SAIC.

“The GMT is one of the most exciting and important scientific projects underway in any field, and it has true potential to play a major role in developing programs and opportunities for the future of astronomical discovery. I’m excited to participate in maturing and shaping a scientific instrument of this caliber, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to see it through to successful discovery,” said Walter E. Massey, PhD, chair of the GMTO Board of Directors.

Armandroff serves as the director of the University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory and as a professor in the Department of Astronomy. Prior to this, Armandroff was director of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii for eight years. During his leadership there, the two 10-meter Keck telescopes played a key role in many astronomical discoveries. Armandroff also worked as an astronomer and eventually associate director for 19 years at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona. After a successful year as chair of the GMTO Board of Directors, he will be stepping into the vice chair position, where he will partner with Massey to lead the board as it advances the GMT through construction.

Massey began his duties as chair on November 2, 2016.