Boehm-Hesser Graduate Research Excellence in Astronomy Award

Dr. Fritz G. Boehm and Dora Boehm

Born in Koblenz, Rhineland, Germany, Fritz studied mining, geology and mineralogy at the Technical University in Clausthal Zellerfeld. Fritz received his diploma in 1965, also the year he married his wife Dora. Fritz continued as a researcher with the Mining Research Institute in Essen (STBV) and received his PhD in 1968.

From 1969 to 1982 Fritz was employed by Krupp Industriebau. He served as managing director in Australia from 1970 until 1972 and then relocated to Edmonton, Alberta. In Edmonton Fritz was charged with overseeing the company which was building the bucket wheel reclaimers for Syncrnde.

After 1982 Fritz started several successful private companies in the field of upgrading technologies for coal and heavy oil (Pyrosol) and in the field of Super Critical Gas Extraction (SCGE).

Besides his business involvements Fritz's main interests have always been in research and development. One of his hobbies was to follow the new discoveries in astronomy, astrophysics and particle science. Based on these interests Fritz became a 25-year supporter of the Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany.

In 2013 Fritz and Dora established a relationship with the Faculty of Science at UVic, which led to their involvement supporting students at "Honours Fest".

Fritz and Dora met Jim and Betty Hesser through their involvement with the Victoria Symphony and Eine Kleine Summer Music where they discovered their strong mutual interests in music and astronomy that led to the creation of this award.

James E. Hesser and Betty L. Hesser

James and Betty met through an advanced astronomy course at the University of Kansas and embarked on their life partnership in 1963. Supported by Betty, Jim completed his PhD in astrophysical sciences at Princeton in 1966, remaining there for two more years as a postdoctoral fellow in laboratory astrophysics (day) and observational astrophysics (night). During the postdoctoral years they became close friends with Canadian postdoctoral fellow David Hartwick who would soon move to the University of Victoria.

With their three-month-old daughter the Hessers moved to La Serena, Chile in September, 1968, where Jim spent nine years on the staff of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, including two as assistant director. In the late '60s David and Jim began decades of joint research projects together at Tololo and with other telescopes.

The Hessers' twin daughters were born in 1971 during a period of considerable political turmoil in Chile, which continued following the 1973 coup. In 1977 their family immigrated to Victoria, British Columbia, where Jim assumed a research position at the National Research Council Canada's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. At UVic Betty resumed her interrupted formal education begun at Swaithmore College and KU, taking both an honours BA in Spanish and an MA in linguistics, as well as singing in the UVic Chorus for three decades, including seven years as Manager.

In late 1986 Jim became DAO Director, a position he held until his 2014 retirement. During much of this period he was an adjunct professor in UVic's Department of Physics and Astronomy, and co-supervised several graduate students. Many research projects were canrried out with UVic astronomers and students before Jim's attention increasingly turned towards NRC's roles in managing Canada's international astronomical facilities, including 11 years representing Canada on the inaugural Board of Directors of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, the world's first global observatory.

In the 2010s Betty and Jim both became involved with the boards of Victoria classical music organizations (Jim: Victoria Symphony; Betty: Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra and Eine Kleine Summer Music). Through Eine Kleine the Boehms and Hessers discovered their strong mutual interests in music and astronomy behind this award.

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