Memo to Signatories, December 2006
from Founder and Chief Scientist Allen Tough
2006 was an eventful year!
The first event was my 70th birthday. This felt like an important milestone in my life. After 47 enjoyable years of research and teaching, I decided to retire. Well, semi-retire!
Then, in February, Cathy and I attended the 20th annual symposium on self-directed learning in Florida. I presented my research on self-directed learning in a keynote session. I was surprised to receive the Knowles award, for significant lifelong contribution to the field, and a standing ovation.
In May, we spent a pleasant weekend in Dallas, Texas, where I was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame. Although I had to wear a tuxedo, the occasion was friendly and enjoyable - not stuffy as I had feared.
The SETI field has been searching for signs of some other civilization in the universe for over 40 years with no success so far. In such a situation, it seems important to me to encourage fresh approaches and outside-the-box solutions. Consequently I have initiated and funded an annual lecture series called the Billingham Cutting-Edge Lecture. The inaugural lecture was delivered by Steve Dick in Valencia (Spain) in October.
My current research project seeks insights into any extraterrestrial intelligence (and its science, philosophy, ethics, arts, and technology) that has been evolving for thousands or millions of years longer than we humans have. I benefit greatly from monthly discussions with Kathryn Denning and weekly help from research assistant Anne Hartman. I want to devote as much time as I can to this research project, so I have retired completely from the day-to-day responsibilities and leadership of the Invitation to ETI. I am glad that these are now in the highly capable hands of Paul Shuch. I will continue to be enthusiastically involved as its benefactor and chief scientist. I am glad that Susan Tough and Paul Tough have agreed to eventually take over and maintain both my websites.
I have always enjoyed walking and hiking, and have been fortunate to have good health for my entire adult life. Until recently. One day in the summer of 2000, while my wife Cathy and I were hiking in Kluane National Park in the Yukon, I noticed I was having problems with balance and falling. At the time, I attributed it to fatigue. Now I know it was the first warning sign of a disease called Multiple System Atrophy, a Parkinson's Plus disease. It occurs because of cell loss in numerous sites in the central nervous system. Why this cell loss occurs is unknown. Because MSA affects my balance and blood pressure, I always use a walker. MSA has certainly presented Cathy and me with many challenges since that day when she carried both our backpacks down from Kluane Plateau. Fortunately for me, she is an excellent help-mate and companion.
I continue to live a happy, busy, productive life. I feel cheerful and not at all sick. Cathy and I often enjoy walking in natural settings. Life is good!
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This page last updated 14 December 2006
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