small logo Editorial

We're All Volunteers Now
by H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D.
Executive Director

When the nonprofit SETI League was founded, I was happily employed as a tenured college professor, enjoying both my teaching duties and the security of a lifetime job contract, backed by the taxing authority of the state. So when your Board of Trustees offered me the opportunity of a lifetime, to do fringe science on soft money, of course I jumped at the opportunity! For their part, the wise and generous founders of The SETI League offered me a five-year contract, guaranteed to match my teaching salary and benefits, thus allowing my family to continue to eat. It has been a good deal for me, and I hope for all of you, in that we've managed to stretch that five-year contract farther than anyone dared hope. I am now in my tenth year with The SETI League, and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

Unfortunately, however, the economy has other plans for me. As you know from reading our Annual Reports and past issues of SearchLites, we have been struggling to keep our organization's collective head above water in the face of global recession, international conflict, and a general downturn in private support for nonprofit endeavors in general, and SETI science in particular. So I was not particularly surprised to learn some months ago that the Board of Trustees would be unable to extend my current contract beyond its present August 15 expiration date.

I remain as committed as ever to The SETI League and its educational and scientific mission. Unfortunately, since my family has not yet learned how to survive without food, clothing, shelter, and health care, I find it necessary to seek gainful employment elsewhere. A few months ago I resurrected Microcomm, the business I founded in California thirty years ago, and have once more hung out my engineering shingle. You may wish to browse to the resulting website, I've already had a few consulting jobs (and been able to contribute some of the proceeds to The SETI League), so I can expect to remain gainfully employed for the foreseeable future.

Does this mean, as has been recently rumored, that The SETI League is going out of business? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Although our League can no longer afford the luxury of a full-time Executive Director, we are a dynamic and vital organization of dedicated and committed volunteers. Like SETI science itself in the wake of Congress pulling the plug on NASA funding a decade ago, The SETI League refuses to die. And I refuse to turn my back on the most exciting venture of my lifetime (and possibly of yours).

So, where does this leave me? As a SETI League volunteer, just like the rest of you. As long as it pleases our Board, I will continue to serve as your Executive Director, on a volunteer basis. Like the rest of you, I will pursue my profession, support my family, and serve The SETI League on weekends, and in the evenings, and in whatever spare time I can muster. As long as I'm able, I will continue as editor of SearchLites, and webmaster to our extensive website. I will write articles, and grant interviews, and attend conferences, as my work schedule permits. And I too will continue to strive toward the day of Contact.

So, we're all volunteers now. Your ongoing support becomes more important than ever, as we make the transition to life without the luxury of fulltime leadership. And yes, I will continue to be an active SETIzen. I just won't be able to answer your emails instantly anymore. But then, if nothing else, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has taught us patience.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.

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