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Friends: Real Support for IfA

Friends Council

The Friends Council. Standing: Dan Bent, John Goody, Phil Whitney, Dave Wilson, Jim Harwood, Mitch Kahle. Seated: Pamela Griffin, Cheryl Goody, Maria Lowder. Photo by Donna Bebber.

The Friends of the Institute for Astronomy is a dynamic organization that provides extensive support for astronomy in Hawaii. At the beginning of 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, the Friends had over 160 members living on Oahu, the neighbor islands, and even the mainland. They are fascinated by astronomy, and want to learn more about it.

The Friends was first organized about ten years ago. In 2006 a small group of dedicated members started meeting quarterly as the Friends Council under the guidance of a new faculty coordinator, Robert Jedicke. This group developed a mission statement: "The Friends of the Institute for Astronomy (FIfA) foster community involvement and develop private funding resources in order to support the people, advance the research, promote astronomy education and public outreach, and enhance the activities of the Institute." The Council developed goals and tasks, and an organization to accomplish this mission. In 2008, the Council added a steering committee composed of Pamela Griffin, Trey McGriff, and Phil Whitney to provide continuity between Council meetings, and IfA added part-time staff support in the form of Events Coordinator Donna Bebber. This year, astronomer Roy Gal also has started to work with the Friends.

The Council has been increasing its support of IfA over the past several years as the number of Friends has grown. Activities include talks by astronomers to public and private groups, financial support for educational programs conducted by IfA graduate students, Friends tours to Mauna Kea and Haleakala Observatories, writing letters in support of IfA programs, arranging lab tours and star parties for Friends, supporting the annual Manoa Open House, maintaining a Friends page on the IfA website, providing graduate student research awards, and providing financial support for other activities not included in the IfA budget.

Some of the Friends' accomplishments include helping to increase attendance at the Frontiers of Astronomy lecture series from 50 to over 300 by developing an email list of almost 1,000 people; arranging and supporting lectures by astronomers to over 5,000 people in Rotary Clubs, college alumni associations, and other community groups; purchasing a van to facilitate graduate student StarLab presentations, talks, and star parties at schools and other venues; providing financial support for relocation of incoming graduate students to UH; and developing a display to recognize major contributors to the IfA.

As 2009 unfolds, the Friends will increase their support for the research and educational efforts of the Institute. IfA activities for the near future include the March 18 Frontiers of Astronomy lecture by renowned IfA astronomer David Jewitt and the annual Manoa Open House on April 5. To see more events, go to the Friends website.

You are invited to join the Friends of the IfA, participate in IfA and Friends activities, and provide financial support to IfA. Contact the Friends either by phone (808-956-6665), email (fifa-steeringcommittee@ifa.hawaii.edu), or online.