|As told by Jerry's friends.....|
|Leonard David Senior Space Writer SPACE.com||Jerry was a friend of mine for so many years. As a space journalist, I often sought his advice on many, many topics. Our paths crossed so many times at various conferences throughout the country, and overseas as well. My fondest memory of our long-standing friendship was not too long ago, sitting in Quark's Bar and Restaurant at the Las Vegas Hilton. The Ferengi bar tender took a special interest in Jerry once he was told of the noted scientist's long-standing involvement with Mars. Jerry and the Ferengi jumped right into debate about life elsewhere - it was quite a scene from across the table. I'll miss Jerry's friendship and passion for Mars and space exploration in general. He made such a mark on where we are all headed - the future.|
|Andrew GSFC 94||Jerry opened the world of space to me, shaped my dreams of Mars and forever changed my life. I wish I had told him that more directly. Let us carry his legacy forward for all of us who care about humanity's past and its future.|
|Natacha Chough ARC 2000||I never knew Gerry Soffen, but after such a life-changing summer in the Academy, I wish I had had the chance to personally thank him for the incredible institution he created. He touched the lives of many students, and given that networking was an important focus of the Academy, who knows how many other people he has indirectly affected. A daughter of a teacher, I have always thought that the only way to change the world is to start with the kids, those who have a clean state and have the enthusiasm for life and learning, and to instill in them the values you hold closest to your heart. Undoubtedly, Dr. Soffen believed this as well, and his love of educational outreach is, I believe, one of the most admirable qualities a person can possess. Our institution has lost a true advocate of space education. May we always remember for what he stood and continue the legacy.|
|Mike Lisano GSFC '93||
Did you know Jerry Soffen...|
... once said, at the end of the first Academy summer, "Life is like white water rafting. Full of surprises!" In my mind, I can still hear, and see, him smiling and saying that to our Academy class, back in 1993.
... not only forgave three of us RA's for skipping out on planned Academy activities to drive to Florida to see a shuttle launch in '93, but even called ahead to KSC for us, to help us get "VIP treatment!" (I understand the shuttle launch trip is now a planned Academy activity.)
... once talked me into going with him to crash an exclusive backstage party after an off-Broadway show he and I had just watched, during our Academy class
Manhattan excursion. Jerry knew I was fairly worried we'd be thrown out, but he wasn't concerned. It turns out that we weren't thrown out. In fact, the two of us were welcomed, handed glasses of champagne, and met many members of the cast!
... once told my wife "It's raining sunshine!", as the three of us drove on a strangely sunny-and-yet-rainy afternoon to watch an outdoor symphony performance in Houston. She still calls this lovely weather phenomenon by that name, on those special days when it occurs.
... attempted, with us, to get backstage after that symphony performance as well, to meet and congratulate the wonderful performers!
When I thought I might leave my JSC work to go to JPL, I called Jerry first, for his advice. He told me some interesting stories about JPL. And as usual, he gave me some great advice that I plan to follow.
The day I accepted the offer to go work at JPL, Jerry celebrated on the phone with me, and said many encouraging things to me. He was that kind of mentor and friend, as I'm sure you'll all agree, and yet of course I could never forget that he, Jerry, was the scientific lead of the very Viking missions that had inspired me as a child to dream of exploring space!
It is hard for me to give more fitting tribute to Dr. Jerry Soffen than to stop typing now, and go pack my boxes here in my old JSC office on this perfectly-blue-sky sunny Houston Sunday. I'll just keep moving, go to JPL, and go help explore Mars with all my ability, as Jerry encouraged me to do just a few short weeks ago.
But maybe I can offer a better tribute. I encourage each of you to do the same as Jerry, and as me, and follow your dreams to the fullest of your capability, every single day. I'll be cheering for you! And you, personally, can give me a call or drop me a line if you ever just want a little encouragement. Encouragement was Jerry's way, and it's up to us to carry it forward.
Thanks for everything, Jerry, and God speed.
|Jessica Edmonds GSFC '00||Last summer, at Goddard, was the best summer of my life. I can't thank him enough for giving me this opportunity - and then to go beyond that, to inspire me and encourage me. At the beginning of the summer, when I went in to talk with him for the first time, I made a brief comment about a Martian lanscape he had on the wall, and the next thing I knew I was across Goddard shaking hands with the project scientist of MOLA. What an amazing person Dr. Soffen was to know! I went in to his office for advice right at the end of the summer, making a decision between two academic tracks - and he skillfully manipulated me into telling him the decision that I had already made. He cared so much for our future - so much for our hopes and dreams. As long as I can remember I have hoped for an opportunity like this, and Dr. Soffen thought it up. I don't know how to express my gratitude to him enough for that, except to continue reaching for those goals. Dr. Soffen was truly, truly a visionary - encouraging, advising, facilitating, and inspiring hundreds of young people to reach for such a worthy cause.|
|Holly Ridings GSFC '96, '97||
Dr. Soffen taught me to|
...look for the opportunity.
He convinced me that in the next hour, day, month, or year something great was going to happen and I could be a part of it. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson he "dwelled in possibility"
...take the risk.
...teach, through effort and action.
One Academy alumnus said when talking about Dr.Soffen's teaching leadership, mentorship, and teamwork...
"The amazing thing is that in the conversations I had with him he didn't really tell me any of this stuff, he more or less radiated it." Travis Sparks GSFC '98
"I would not be the person I am today without that (NASA Academy) experience, and there are over 300 other NASA Academy Alumni who can all say the same thing. If you were not a student, Dr. Soffen still wanted to help you, it was very difficult to escape his sphere of influence." Aaron J Jacobovits DFRC '98
"Gerry opened the world of space to me, shaped my dreams of Mars and forever changed my life." Andrew Hoppin GSFC '94
Dr. Soffen wrote this to the 96 NASA Academy in May just before the program
began that summer...
The creation of Soffen's Student Mafia...and I'm not joking. I always tell people I can travel to any state in the US and not stay in a hotel. We are in the process of infiltrating every nook and cranny of NASA and the space industry.
Dr.Soffen created and kept the faith for all of us. It is a faith we will all carry forward.
|Larry Young Space Grant Director||Jerry Soffen's loss is a great one to our whole community - and I personally will miss him enormously. His irreverent attitude was refreshing and his wealth of knowledge impressive. I worked with him beginning with his term as NASA's Direftor of Life Sciences, and then through the NASA Academy. He was dedicated, funny, visionary - and a good friend.|
|John C. Gregory||I met Gerry shortly after his term as Viking Project scientist ( I'd have to look up how long ago that was). Our conversations have been widely spaced in time, but always different, unusual and interesting. He invariably communicated his youthful enthusiasm for science to those around him, wherever he was, no matter their ages. Aside from his long career in planetary science and the origins of life, he was, as you all know, most interested in the generation(s) that will follow him into NASA and space science. The last time we met in Huntsville, 2 years ago, he willingly took a few hours off and came downtown to an inner-city school 6th grade classroom. There he led a lively impromptu discussion of what it would be like to live on Mars. Without overheads, naturally. His ability to engage the kids within a few minutes and stimulate lots of questions was impressive. It's something I have thought about quite a lot, since many of us find it difficult. Gerry was a great friend of Space Grant, and I know he considered it a very important program in the Agency. I know he provided help and encouragement to many individual Space Grants (including ours). He was truly the Dean of University Affairs Officers. We shall try to remember the things we learned from him, and we shall miss him.|
|Jim Tucker NASA/GSFC||
Increasing Participation in the Director's Discretionary Fund|
I recall on several occasions sitting in Gerry's office at the conclusion of the Goddard Space Flight Center Director's Discretionary Fund proposal review excerise. Gerry would be calling every proposer to inform them if they had been selected for funding. He would have an ordered list of all proposers, and would start calling them, from the highest ranked to the lowest. Before he would call, he would read each proposal again and look over the budget. Gerry was a master at finding fat in proposals, and when he found some, he would negotiate a lower funding level for those proposals. The money Gerry saved he would use to fund proposals further down in the ranking. Gerry believed in giving as many people as possible the opportunity to show what they could do. He was a firm believer in equal opportunity and bringing out the best in people.
Driving to Berkeley
World War II
Gerry Soffen was an unusual, a colorful, and a wonderful person. If he was with us today, he would admonish us to continue studying the earth, our solar system, and the universe. He would also admonish us to help others and to strive to be better people.
|Mike Moreau GSFC '94,'95||
I met Dr. Soffen in 1994 as a student in the NASA Academy, and came back the next year to work for him.
He was a strong influence in my decision to pursue a Ph.D., and I have worked closely with Goddard on my
thesis research through a GSRP fellowship. About a month ago, I shared the news with Jerry that the group
I work with here at is starting the process to hire me full time; he was so happy. It was the perfect story;
a farm boy from rural Vermont found his way to Goddard and learned how to turn his dreams into reality through
the programs that Jerry has created and nurtured. |
Over the years, I learned many things from Dr. Soffen...
Jerry taught us... it's not how old you are that matters, but how old you act. He would say this was the reason he constantly surrounded himself with young people. How many seventy-year-olds do you know who have been white water rafting with a bunch of twenty-something college kids?
Jerry taught us... the value of involving young people in the real projects and programs of NASA. Jerry was adept at seeing the future; when he came across a young person, he didn't see the student of today, he saw the renowned scientist, president of a company, NASA researcher or teacher of tomorrow.
Jerry has influenced my life more profoundly than any other teacher, professor, or mentor. I can only begin to image how many students he has impacted in a similar way. I guarantee that of all the great things Jerry accomplished, his effect on hundreds and hundreds of students will have the most significant, and long lasting impact.
|Aaron Jacobovits DFRC 98||I was in the 98 Dryden Academy which was a really great time, I learned so much. We flew across the country and visited the Goddard Academy that summer for about a week. One day at NASA HQ our comparatively tiny academy had the good fortune to eat lunch with Dr. Soffen. It was not a long time, maybe 45 minutes at most sitting at the table with him, and we were all eating too so discussion was further slowed down. I met and had disucssions like that with over a hundred people that summer, at lunch and otherwise. But that short time with Dr. Soffen was enough to make him stick out in my mind as one of the nicest and most caring people I encountered. He is without a doubt one of the most memorable people I met through the Academy or anywhere else. In particular I remember him talking about people and how much he wanted to help them. Students, NASA employees, professors and people working at aerospace companies were all great as far as Dr. Soffen was concerned and he wanted to help them the best way he knew how. He started the NASA Academy for us students and I am very grateful that he did. I would not be the person I am today without that experience, and there are over 300 other NASA Academy Alumni who can all say the same thing. If you were not a student, Dr. Soffen still wanted to help you, it was very difficult to escape his sphere of influence. I remember him talking about a plan that would let people move around more easily between academic positions, working at NASA and working in industry, Dr. Soffen thought it would be great if people had such freedom in their careers, and he was on a mission to enable that. It is clear to me that he genuinely cared about people and I hope that kind spirit will live on in the institutions he left behind.|
|Fernmarie Rodriguez GSFC 2000||Dr. Soffen gave me the privilege of sharing a great and memorable summer with the NASA Academy 2000. I feel very sad, for I never got to thank him for it, I was waiting to finish this semester to give him a call or send him a thank you note. I am honored for the opportunity of being part of his last Academy. I will give my up most to continue his legacy. Sweet memories of yesterday are the only thoughts in the end...|
Dr. Soffen left me with his request for me to "give back to others" for
the many opportunities and rewards that I have benefitted from my
relationship with him and his organization.|
I will always be thankful for the relationship that I had with Dr. Soffen as he was a catapult toward my successes. I am so grateful for the potential that he saw in me, and in all of us. And, for the investments that he made toward my successes via his time through Summer Internship programs, and his money via the USAR scholarship awarded through his office, that financially made it possible for me to attain my B.S. Computer Engineering Degree.
A lot of us are a testimony of the legacy of space science excellence that Dr. Soffen leaves behind. I would like to leave you with the words that he left me with the last time that we spoke. In thanking him again, the last words he spoke to me were "Make sure you pass it on, and Give it Back".