William Lowell Putnam to Step Down as Lowell Observatory Trustee

Flagstaff, Ariz. — Today William Lowell Putnam announced his intent to step down from his position as sole trustee of Lowell Observatory.  Grandnephew of Observatory founder Percival Lowell, Putnam assumed trusteeship of the Observatory in 1987 following a successful career as a broadcast executive.

Serving as the Observatory’s fourth trustee since Percival Lowell’s death in1916, Putnam left an indelible mark on the organization.  During his tenure, the number of astronomers on staff has grown to 18, the facility has seen the addition of a new 6,500-square-foot visitor center and an archive facility, that, when construction is finished, will house the Observatory’s collection of rare photographic glass plates, manuscripts, library of scientific publication, and other documents and artifacts.

Putnam’s most significant contribution was his leadership developing and funding the Discovery Channel Telescope, the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States, located 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff.  As part of this $53 million project, Putnam helped establish partnerships between the observatory and the Boston University, University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo, with other potential partners still being negotiated.

Observatory Director Jeffrey Hall commented, “Bill has served Lowell Observatory as Trustee faithfully and with absolute and unswerving dedication to the institution.  His leading role in the development and completion of the Discovery Channel Telescope has positioned Lowell for many more decades as a leading astronomical research institution.”

In addition to his leadership at the Observatory, Putnam also contributed significantly to various organizations in the Flagstaff community, including the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, United Way of Northern Arizona and Flagstaff festival of Science.  Earlier this year he was honored with the Viola Legacy Award, given annually to a citizen for a lifetime of contributions to the arts and/or sciences in the Flagstaff area.

Putnam’s son William Lowell Putnam IV, who goes by “Lowell”, will succeed him as trustee, with the formal date set for October 25, 2013 on what will be the senior Putnam’s 89th birthday.  Lowell said, “I am honored and humbled to assume this position of trust which has been in my family for nearly 100 years.  Bill’s legacy is incredible and will be hard to match, but I will do my best.”

Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory, (928) 233-3210, kevin@lowell.edu

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