Last week, the director of the National Weather Service (NWS), Louis W. Uccellini, visited his alma mater as the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award winner.
Uccellini presented the story of the intellectual and professional journey that led him to the leadership of this extraordinarily important government agency.
He reminded us of some of the rich history that connects the professional weather and climate forecasting services of today with the vision of some of Wisconsin’s first scientists, including professor Increase Lapham, who was among the more influential protagonists arguing for a National Weather Service during the 1860s. That history also includes the first weather satellites, foundational insights into the physics of weather systems in both the middle latitudes and the tropics, as well as pioneering work on understanding the climate system.
As his two-day visit came to a close, we were filled with a great pride that, because of his UW roots, we were able to engage hundreds of students in personal meetings with the director of the NWS. It reminded us that our department and our university are both institutions that aspire to change the world for the better.
UW-Madison is not great by accident but by choice. For more than 150 years the people of our state have chosen to make its success a priority because they realize it is one of the drivers of the state’s success. As Uccellini’s visit reminded us all, we strive to do great things at Wisconsin and we usually succeed.