Roxanne Clark Wraps up 28-Year Career of Keeping Movers and Shakers on Track
April 27, 2012
Jon Bashor, Jbashor@lbl.gov, +1 510-486-5849
Throughout her 28-year career at Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, Roxanne Clark built a strong track record of supporting senior managers who went on to bigger and better things.
During her time at Livermore, from 1984 to 1995, she worked with Bruce Tarter when he was deputy director of Physics— and went on to become LLNL's eighth director. While working in the Lab's nuclear test program, she supported Bob Kuckuck, who was later named interim director at Los Alamos. Robert Borchers in Livermore's Computation Division later served as director of the National Science Foundation ‘s Division of Advanced Computational Infrastructure and Research .
In 1991, Bill McCurdy arrived at LLNL to head up the National Energy Research Supercomputing Center and Clark was selected to be his administrator. "That was a lot of fun—Bill was really dynamic and we were always procuring new machines," Clark said. "It was exciting because Bill brought this academic side to the job, which wasn’t as common at Livermore as it is in Berkeley."
Things really got busy when DOE decided in 1995 to move NERSC and ESnet to Berkeley Lab. With the move, Clark became the first employee in Berkeley Lab's new Computing Sciences organization, with McCurdy being the second hire as Associate Laboratory Director (ALD). Soon they were joined by ESnet staff, and then Horst Simon was hired as the new NERSC Director. Clark became his administrator in 2003 and, true to form, Simon later was named Deputy Director of Berkeley Lab in 2010. Since then, she has supported Kathy Yelick as the ALD for Computing Sciences.
"What made Roxanne such a valuable partner was that she had just flawless judgment," McCurdy said. "It's terribly important that you have someone who could pick up a phone call and tell whether it's an urgent situation or someone just trying to get something from you. She made it her business to understand everything she could about every situation and every interaction—she had a clear idea of how to support you and serve as a front line of defense. And she was very pleasant all the time she was doing this. We were partners at work, and we also became friends."
Not a bad career for a woman who landed her first job right out of high school in 1969 and never looked back. Clark grew up in San Ramon, on the family ranch in Bollinger Canyon where she still lives. Her first job was with EG&G, a company known formally known as Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc. and informally as EGG. As a government contractor, the San Ramon office provided support for LLNL's weapons testing program at the Nevada Test Site. At EG&G, Clark worked in HR, purchasing and even staffed an old-fashioned plug-in telephone switchboard. She also worked in the CRT area, which sent tubes down into the underground chambers where the "devices" were detonated.
She had the opportunity to fly to the test site a few times on the LLNL airplane known as AMI, or Amy. At one weapons test code-named Liptauer in April 1980, she got to know a fellow EG&G employee named Steve Clark, who worked on the borehole geophysics. They both watched the test from remote control room, seeing the result of the explosion on monitors. The event also sparked something between the two and they’ve been married for 32 years.
"It was an exciting time when you look back at it," Clark said of the testing program. "We got to go to areas no one else saw, even near Area 51. And there was a steakhouse restaurant at the test site where you could fill up on steak and lobster."
In 1984, she was hired on at LLNL and joined the Physics Division. She was hired by Gen Phillips, known as "Mother Superior" in Physics and who supported LLNL Directors Edward Teller and John Nuckolls. Clark later moved over to Chemistry and Materials Science and eventually the nuclear test program "where I already knew the cast of characters from my work at EGG," Clark said.
From the test program, she joined Computation, where she first met Norma Early, now an admin at NERSC.
Once the DOE Office of Science made the decision to move NERSC and ESnet, Clark and McCurdy began working closely with Stu Loken and Sandy Merola in Berkeley Lab's Information and Computing Sciences Division. Through careful planning and procurements, new computing and storage systems were set up in Berkeley and went online in the fall of 1996, before the machines at LLNL were shut down for the move. As a result, NERSC users had uninterrupted access to the center’s computing resources.
"The move was really memorable—it was a really big job," Clark recalled.
One of the first LBNL employees Clark worked with was Linda Wuy of the Director's Office and whom Clark credits with helping her learn the ins and outs of Berkeley Lab.
Now, she figures, it's finally time to retire and relax. Her last working day will be April 30, but she'll come back a few days to help out before officially retiring on June 30. She plans to work more in the yard, spend more time visiting her son's family in Humboldt County, and maybe even take up horseback riding again. As a young girl, she rode often and helped with the cattle roundups on the family ranch in Bollinger Canyon, where her grandparents bought land in 1932. The family also had their own store, the Mueller Bros. Butcher Shop on E. 14th Street in Oakland.
In an interesting historical footnote, Clark's ancestors travelled from Germany to the United States in 1912 aboard the ocean liner "Amerika." During the crossing, the ship picked up distress signals from the Titanic, but was too far away to come to the sinking ship's aid.
"I think I've had an interesting career and it's been fun," she said. "There's never a dull moment around here—you never know what you're coming into from day to day."