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VAS Awards Honorary Member to Dr. Gladys West

Tuesday, February 25, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Khea Adams
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  Gary Faulhaber with
Dr. Gladys West
Dave Doyle, Thomas West, Alison Hanson, Ira West,
Dr. Gladys West, Gary Faulhaber and John Palatiello
  Dave Doyle, Ira West, Dr. Gladys West, Gary Faulhaber          

On Saturday, February 22, (fittingly, on George Washington’s Birthday and the last day of National Engineers Week), a delegation from VAS presented a certificate of Honorary Member to Dr. Gladys West, a mathematician and native Virginian known for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth, and her work on the development of the satellite geodesy models that were eventually incorporated into the Global Positioning System (GPS). Representing VAS was President Gary Faulhaber, Second Vice President Alison Hanson, Dave Doyle (Honorary Member of VAS and former Chief Geodetic Surveyor of the National Geodetic Survey), and Executive Director John Palatiello.

The group met Dr. West and her family at her home in King George. Upon presenting a certificate of Honorary Member in VAS to Dr. West, Faulhaber said, it is “in overwhelming gratitude for your contributions and groundbreaking work in mathematics, revolutionizing positioning, navigation & timing or ‘PNT’, satellite geodesy, the mathematical modeling of the shape of the earth to define the ”ellipsoid”, the computation of gravity coefficients from geoid heights, GPS, which now has become an everyday tool for most every layperson and is actually is responsible for bringing each of us here to your door.” He noted, “you have already received numerous awards which include two prestigious awards presented in just the past year, the United States Air Force Space and Missiles Pioneers Hall of Fame and a National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) award of lasting appreciation for your contributions in satellite geodesy.” He concluded, “on behalf of our Board of Directors and all of the members of the Virginia Association of Surveyors, the great land surveyors of your home Commonwealth, it is my great honor and privilege to present to you, Dr. Gladys West, this certificate of Honorary Membership in our Virginia Association of Surveyors.”

Dr. West told the VAS delegation stories of her career, including the fact that her work for the Department of Defense was highly classified, meaning she could never tell her children what she was doing. Her daughter, Carolyn Oglesby, said she and her brother, Thomas, never knew of their remarkable mother’s achievements until recently, when their hometown newspaper, the Free Lance Star, in Fredericksburg, published a feature story. The surveying community learned of her accomplishments through a subsequent story in xyHt magazine.

The VAS delegation was hosted in her home by Dr. West, her husband of more than 60 years, Ira, and her children Carolyn, herself a PhD, and son, Thomas, a GIS program manager for Spotsylvania County, VA. In their conversation, Dr. West mentioned a 16 year-old grandson who currently aspires to a career in surveying. Dr. and Mr. West have also created a local STEM scholarship.

“It was truly an honor and a privilege to present Dr. West with her Honorary Membership. Today, by far, was one of the greatest moments of my Presidency. I was totally in awe of her humility and kindness. It was awesome to hear that her grandson has expressed an interest in a career of land surveying. I introduced and extended the invitation to her son to apply for a scholarship from our Education Trust. How cool would it be for Dr. Gladys West’s grandson to become a future Land Surveyor and member of our VAS,” Faulhaber said.

“It was truly an honor to represent the VAS and to have an opportunity to meet Dr. West and her family. I am very grateful for the experience and to be able to listen to her personally share, in a humble fashion, the account of her career and achievements. I am also appreciative that I had to opportunity to thank her for her role as a pioneer in our history and for the impact she has had on our profession and in the advancement for women and minorities in STEM. The work of Dr. West transformed the way we all work and live today and not surprisingly she and her family continue their efforts in support of STEM. She is a true inspiration to us all and I am very glad the story of the work she did, and the stories of others are no longer ‘hidden’”, according to Hanson.

“Meeting Dr. West has to be one of the most memorable events in my career. Her pioneering activities and significant achievements in geodesy, accomplished in the face of so many challenges combined with her humility, love of family and country should be an inspiration to all of us. I was extremely honored to have been a part of this presentation by VAS”, said Doyle.