Snow and ice coat the summit cone of Mount Washington in the foreground as the morning sun illuminates the northern Presidential Range on Sept. 25.
Earlier this month, Mount Washington Observatory began a new chapter when the Board of Trustees unanimously selected Dr. Drew Fulton Bush as our organization’s new Executive Director.
Drew is a passionate, visionary leader with a remarkably well-rounded background that encompasses weather and climate science, education, fundraising, and leadership.
This is Drew’s first week at the Observatory, where he’s been busy meeting individually with trustees and staff, learning about our priorities and projects, and already providing guidance along the way. He will be undertaking overnight visits to the summit next week to get better acquainted with our mountain staff and the important work they perform.
Throughout his career, Drew has made significant contributions working as a journalist, research faculty member, and nonprofit leader. Most recently, he directed research in McGill University’s Department of Geography and served as the Assistant Director of the Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village in Brownington, VT. We are thrilled that his considerable abilities will now help the Observatory move forward by maintaining and expanding one of North America’s longest running alpine climate records.
Of course, Drew’s seamless assumption of the Observatory’s leadership would not have been possible without the remarkable progress the we enjoyed under Interim Executive Director Donna Dunn. Be sure to read Immediate Past Chair Gary MacDonald’s reflection on Donna’s accomplishments, below.
Donna Dunn, whose role as our Interim Executive Director concludes with the hiring of Dr. Drew Fulton Bush, has been instrumental over the last two and a half years in leading Mount Washington Observatory through a period of extraordinary challenge and change.
As we celebrate 90 years of weather observing and research in October, we will look back at the last few years as a time when critical structures were put in place for a successful future.
In 2019, Donna had made plans to “semi-retire” to Jackson, NH after a long career as CEO and executive director at several nonprofit organizations. Her plan was to continue her part-time work as a senior consultant for a nonprofit consulting agency.
At the time, the Observatory’s Board of Trustees faced the challenge of an executive leadership transition and decided to hire an Intentional Interim Executive Director who could position the organization with the greatest opportunity for success under a future, longer-term leader. The intentional interim leader’s purpose is to serve as an internal consultant for staff and board as well as take responsibility for all operations.
In February 2020, the trustees asked Donna to consider the position, given her experience and knowledge about the Observatory, with the original plan for an 8- to10-month tenure. Certainly, no one predicted the next month would bring the impacts of a pandemic, and that more than two and a half years later, we would be celebrating Donna’s work in restructuring the Observatory.
Within a few weeks of Donna’s hiring, COVID hit full-force. Several difficult decisions had to be taken immediately to ensure the Observatory’s core weather station operations. Throughout this initial period, Donna quickly gained the confidence of the staff and trustees. She provided the leadership required, focusing the Observatory on its core mission of science and research, as well as streamlining financial reporting to ensure financial stability.
After the first few months in her new role, Donna then focused her efforts on three primary areas:
Board – Working with the trustees to develop a new strategic plan, as well as assisting board process, structure, and culture.
Staff – Identifying and strengthening staff roles and responsibilities, and aligning the staff’s work with the newly developed strategic plan.
Development – Creating a renewed focus on fundraising and development planning.
In each of these areas, Donna provided outstanding leadership and expertise, with an emphasis on collaborating and communicating with staff, trustees, and membership, while providing rationales for the changes taking place. Other key accomplishments resulting from Donna’s work with our trustees and staff include improving our facilities and vehicle fleet significantly, adapting our education programs for expanded reach, strengthening relationships with our summit partners, and finalizing a new five-year weather contract with NOAA, which relies on our observations to inform weather forecasts, warnings, and climatological services.
All of this was done as the Observatory continued it primary work of ongoing weather observations, mountain forecasting, research, and maintaining the 90-year data set.
I had the distinct honor and pleasure of working closely with Donna during my tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees. On behalf of the Observatory’s trustees, staff, and members, I commend Donna for her dedication, her leadership, and her professionalism. We all wish her the best as she resumes her “semi-retirement.” We are grateful that she shared her remarkable talents with us. Thank you, Donna!
Immediate Past Chair, Board of Trustees
Mount Washington Observatory
This October marks Mount Washington Observatory’s 90 years of continuous weather observation. Join our resident-historian and library curator, Dr. Peter Crane, on Oct. 11 as we look back at the legacy of this scientific institution, with plenty of time reserved to ask questions and share your Observatory memories!
Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom or Facebook. In advance of the program, we invite you to submit a question about Obs history or share a memory as you reflect on what the Observatory means to you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Science in the Mountains lecture series continues to be free and open to anyone, thanks to our supporters, with all program recordings available on our website.
Founders Day Open House
Founded on Oct. 15, 1932, the Observatory is celebrating nine decades of overcoming extremes to study our atmosphere. The public is invited to take free tours of our weather station, inside the Sherman Adams Building atop Mount Washington, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 15. The open house is weather-dependent. Please check our website and social media for updates. Visitors will need to pay to drive the Mount Washington Auto Road or Cog Railway to reach the summit, or hike for free!
Meet New Weather Observer Alexandra Branton
New Weather Observer & Education Specialist Alex Branton returns to the Obs following a recent summit internship and her graduation from the Florida Institute of Technology. During September, she experienced many “firsts” on the summit, including a 116 mph wind gust. Learn more in Alex’s recent Observer Comment.
Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa from WMUR News 9 visited Mount Washington Observatory recently to highlight the role of our work in understanding climate trends. “It’s hard work living there, but it has paid off over the years. Researchers might not have known how important it would be when they started gathering data in 1935, but it’s incredibly rare to have hourly observations at that altitude,” said Skarupa. Watch the video.
Above, our Director of Weather Operations Jay Broccolo provides an overview of the Mount Washington Regional Mesonet during a weather station tour last week that hosted Joshua Benes from the University of Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield Science and Stewardship Center and James Shanley from the USGS.
The tour was part of an initiative to share expertise through the Northeast Alpine Summits Monitoring Network, which includes meteorology and hydrology professionals from Mt. Mansfield, the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at Whiteface Mountain Field Station, the USGS, and Mount Washington Observatory.
Shown below during dinner at our weather station are Joshua Benes (UVM), left, Weather Observer Sam Robinson, volunteers Peter and Elizabeth Ouellette, Broccolo, Summit Intern Jackson Hawkins, Weather Observer Alexis George, and our resident summit cat Nimbus.
Governor and Council Visit Observatory
Gov. Chris Sununu and the state’s Executive Council toured our weather station on Sept. 7 as part of the council’s regular meeting, hosted on Mount Washington at the request of District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney. It was reportedly the first time the Governor and five-member Executive Council met atop Mount Washington. Shown below, Gov. Sununu stands on the Observatory’s instrument tower. Read reporter Paula Tracy’s story for details.
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Mount Washington Observatory is a private, nonprofit, member-supported institution with a mission to advance understanding of the natural systems that create Earth’s weather and climate. It serves this mission by maintaining a weather station on the summit of Mount Washington, performing weather and climate research, conducting innovative science education programs, and interpreting the heritage of the Mount Washington region. Our weather station is located on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, at Mount Washington State Park.