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Buell Jannuzi, Head of the Department of Astronomy and Director of Steward Observatory, receives the 2024 Distinguished Head/Director’s Award from the University of Arizona

Steward Observatory’s Buell Jannuzi wins UArizona’s Distinguished Head/Director’s Award

This week, Buell Jannuzi, Head of the Department of Astronomy and Director of Steward Observatory, receives University of Arizona’s Distinguished Head/Director’s Award, an honor that reflects his abilities as a leader to engender trust, foster collaboration, and recruit and retain a diverse community of high-achieving staff, students and faculty.

"We are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated and effective leader for Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy,” said Regents’ Professor George Rieke. “In a limited-funding, highly-constrained environment he has, nevertheless, managed to extend and expand the ambition of the faculty and staff of the department and increase our global reach and impact.”

The Distinguished Head/Director’s Award was created in 2021—an award underpinned by UArizona’s values of integrity, compassion, exploration, adaptation, inclusion, and determination. The quality and reputation of the University of Arizona has been significantly raised by contributions of those heads and directors whose vision, courage, standards, and effectiveness have been transformative. This award recognizes such uncommon performance, calling attention to individuals whose leadership and management has raised the standards, expectations, and reputation of the unit as a whole, or who have otherwise brought excellence, innovation, and high ethical standards to the art of being a unit head or director.  

“The challenge of leading Steward Observatory is immense,” said Rieke. “Its scale is on a par with the major observatories in the world, most of which are sponsored by national governments or well-endowed foundations.” In over a decade of directorship, Jannuzi has seen the University of Arizona rank in the top 10 space-science programs worldwide, and second among US public institutions (U.S. News and World’s 2021 report). Under his leadership, Steward Observatory was a founding member of the Event Horizon Telescope Consortium—creating the world’s first ever image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy—and led in the development of two major instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Huge advances are expected as construction continues on the $2B Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), soon to be the largest optical telescope on earth, equipped with enormous mirrors crafted on the UArizona campus at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab.

“This level of success is the result of the dedication and excellence of over 400 individuals at Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy,” said Rieke. “Buell is both an enabler of those seeking challenging, high-risk/high-reward opportunities, and in positioning Steward Observatory for leadership going forward. Buell has realized that a light hand on the tiller, with intervention and support when needed, leaves the most room for the faculty and staff to succeed."

This month marks 12 years of Jannuzi’s leadership, during which time the department has thrived and grown. Steward Observatory is unique in its span, including large ground-based observing facilities, leadership in space-based instrumentation and satellite missions, development of detector technology, manufacturing of the world’s largest telescope mirrors, stewardship of large graduate and undergraduate programs, and a large general education mission that ranges from pursuit of research into science education to professionalized public outreach programs.

The Steward Observatory community celebrates Buell’s well-earned award and trusts that his leadership will continue to lift the department toward new successes—indeed, said Rieke, “the trust he engenders is, in fact, Buell’s greatest asset.”

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