Today I have the bittersweet opportunity to bid farewell to one of NASA’s true superstars, Dr. Beth Beck. Today is Beth’s final day at NASA as she is retiring after a highly successful 32 year career. Beth was passionate about public service and it made all of us working with her better ourselves. She viewed innovation and collaboration as tools to challenge the bureaucratic status quo. As NASA's Open Innovation Program Manager, Beth identified and adopted innovative data technology solutions. Beth was also the Information Management Program Executive serving up to retirement, and previously served as Deputy Associate Chief Information Officer for Technology and Innovation in OCIO. As a social media addict, Beth adopted Twitter early in 2007 and was one of the first NASA users. Beth led the International Space Apps Challenge for three years and founded NASA's Datanaut program which selected the fifth class of data explorers in January 2018. In her prior position as Public Outreach Manager for human spaceflight programs, Beth coordinated development of NASA's Facebook page, and planned and supported Tweetups for Space Shuttle and Space Station missions. Beth co-founded the award-winning http://LAUNCH.org program to connect with sustainability-minded audiences to demonstrate relevance between scarce resources on Earth and life in the extremely hostile environment of space. She created NASA's web-based 3-D multimedia collection for easy public access to models and tools created by NASA designers. She received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal for innovative public outreach programs and the Women in Aerospace Awareness Award, and was recognized by FedScoop as one of DC's Top Women in Tech and as a finalist as Federal Tech Champion of the Year. Beth, a Phi Beta Kappa, received both graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in government and public affairs, and a PhD from Virginia Tech.
Just to put some context on her popularity at NASA, whenever Beth and I walked around HQ, I was always amazed at how many NASA folks she knew bumping into them in the halls and how much they each had to discuss from past endeavors and experiences. At one point I recall asking Beth, “hey isn’t that Robert Lightfoot over there in this meeting!?!” in which she would answer, “yes, let me introduce you…”. Overall, I got the distinctive honor to work with Beth for 4 and a half years during which time I learned more about NASA, community outreach and government than in my previous 14 years at the agency. Her wisdom, intelligence and sense of humor will be missed!
NASA Ames Research Center/HQ OCIO
Open Data Program Manager