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Making Choices

Changing of the Guard

Jerome Baker

People make choices every day that impact the lives of others they will never meet. Many of the choices we make are trivial, affecting only ourselves. But sometimes an individual comes along whose choices serve to better the lives of a broad group of people. In this issue of American Scientist, we pay tribute to a choice that David R. Schoonmaker made more than 20 years ago. In spring 1993, the then-current editor of the magazine, Rosalind Reid, offered David the position of managing editor for the magazine. He decided to take the position and move his family from Arden, North Carolina, to the Triangle region of the state; he joined the Sigma Xi staff on May 15, 1993. Those choices, made more than 20 years ago, have had a profound impact on the readers of this magazine. David has carefully guided American Scientist’s operations and content, with the unwavering goal of delivering the highest quality coverage of scientific subjects in every issue. He worked in a number of roles before accepting his position with Sigma Xi, first at Mother Earth News and later for Rodale Press as executive editor of Men’s Health Newsletter. Executive editors do everything on the editorial and business sides of running a publication, so the position was good training for a small magazine. From the beginning of his work with American Scientist, he relished managing the print budget, tracking circulation and strategizing with the business staff about advertising. On August 1, 2008, after serving for a year as interim editor of the magazine, he accepted my offer to become editor of American Scientist.

Over the 20 years he has spent with the magazine, David has made uncountable choices, including hiring staff, extending invitations to authors to write for the magazine, determining the balance of content in each issue, purchasing paper and equipment, selecting content—and the list goes on. He has now made another choice: This June, he will retire. The July–August 2013 issue of American Scientist is the last one he will produce. We extend to David our heartfelt thanks for his leadership and guidance, and for the many choices he has made, which have allowed American Scientist to make lasting contributions in disseminating science and engineering knowledge and improving public understanding of science. Lest you think that he will rest in his retirement, be assured that he has no shortage of adventures to pursue. Some will involve his long-standing interest in geology and climate; others will involve kayaking, photography, reading and spending more time with his family.

In the magazine publishing industry, one venue through which exemplary choices are recognized is the EXCEL Awards, the annual awards for association publishing given by AMP (Association Media and Publishing). I’m happy to report that American Scientist has won awards in three categories for 2012. The magazine won top honors—gold awards—for design excellence and cover design, and it received a bronze award for general excellence. We extend special congratulations to David and the staff of American Scientist, especially to our excellent art team, Barbara Aulicino and Tom Dunne.

David’s legacy will continue past his retirement. This issue, we are excited to introduce a new column, Technologue, in which authors will provide updates on fields as diverse as biomechanics and nanomedicine. In the inaugural installment, Lee Langston of the University of Connecticut shares the history of gas turbines and discusses recent advances in this technology. Other articles in the issue include an exploration by D. Andrew Howell, of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, of how researchers are studying supernova explosions, such as the one shown on the cover. Howell proposes incorporating robotics into telescope technology, which would provide a novel approach to recording supernova explosions and might reveal secrets of the early universe.

This issue and those before it reflect the devotion and attention to detail that David Schoonmaker has demonstrated for 20 years. In his absence, we will strive to make choices of similar integrity that fit with the more than 100-year history of the magazine.

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