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Franco Einaudi, a beloved and indelible figure in the global atmospheric sciences community and former AMS president, died of complications of pneumonia at the age of 83 on December 10,2020, with his loving wife Paula at his side. A brilliant mathematician and physicist and a well-known expert on gravity waves, Franco pioneered new programs and forged partnerships that advanced the meteorological sciences related to atmospheric waves and turbulence, satellite observation technology, and cooperation across the public, private, and educational institutions. He also championed diversity in the atmospheric sciences, lifting up minority students and budding scientists with encouragement, mentorship, and opportunity throughout his 43-year career and since his retirement in 2010. He embodied the hope and promise of America, having immigrated to the United States in 1962 to further his education with a minimal capability in English. For all the gifts that America gave him--an exceptional graduate education, a wonderful family, many colleagues and friends, and a rewarding career--he reinvested tenfold into the adopted country he loved so much. Yet, he never forgot his roots and took great pleasure in sharing his Italian heritage with American friends and colleagues.

Childhood in Italy

Franco's inspiring life story began on October 31,1937 in Turin, Italy, where he was born to Costanza and Renato Einaudi, renowned physicist and professor at the University of Messina in Sicily and the Polytechnic University of Turin. His memories as a young child during WWII remained vivid and shaped the rest of his life. When war broke out in Italy, the family was living in a fifth-floor apartment where air raid sirens would regularly send everyone to the basement. There, they held onto reinforced columns and prayed that British and American bombs would escape them. Franco would recall that when bombs fell close to their apartment, he would feel the shock and vibration rise up from the floor through his entire body. When the building next door was demolished, the family moved to safer grounds at the University of Torino's Observatory in the Piedmont countryside. It was an idyllic setting until the summer of 1943, when Italy joined the Allies and the Nazis occupied the country. German troops took over the compound at the Observatory, causing Franco's family to seek refuge for the rest of the war at San Giacomo, home of Franco's great uncle Luigi Einaudi. In those same desperate times that sank Italy into partisan warfare, Luigi Einaudi was a well-known antifascist and economist who had escaped to Switzerland on foot with his 70-year-old wife to evade arrest.

When the war ended, the villagers strung up the fascists in the town square. Renato took his family to see them hanging so Franco and his younger brother Sergio would never forget the brutality of the regime and the resulting war. In 1948, Luigi Einaudi would become the first president of the Republic of Italy and is credited with saving the country through his tireless effort to rebuild the economy.

At the end of the war, Franco's family returned to Turin, a three-day journey through the destruction caused by years of war over terrain that today would be less than an hour's drive. In a sad twist of fate, following a large family reunion in Sicily to celebrate the end of the war, Franco's mother fell ill with food poisoning and died when Franco was just eight years old. The family had survived air raids, bombs, and Nazis, only to suffer the worst loss imaginable. Two years later, Renato remarried, and in 1950 Franco's younger brother, Giorgio, was born.


Franco studied at Turin's best-known scientific high school, the Galileo Ferraris, then enrolled in the Polytechnic University in Turin, along with a group of high school friends he would remain close to for the rest of his life. He graduated in 1961 with a degree in electrical engineering with Italy's equivalent of summa cum laude. He spent a short time as an assistant professor before he applied to graduate school at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, where his Uncle Mario--who had escaped from Mussolini's Italy in the 1930s--worked as the head of the Government Department.

Upon landing in the United States, Franco pledged to study English as intensively as he did everything else. At Cornell, he showed the clear-eyed good humor that always characterized him. He earned an M.S. in plasma physics and then a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences in 1967.

To illustrate the beginning of his assimilation into American life, Franco loved to tell the story about how he flunked his first math exam at Cornell. Like a good European student, he spent almost the entire time on the first problem of a 20-problem test. The Americans realized that the first problem was tough and simply skipped it to get to the easier ones. Franco went to the professor afterward to explain that he really understood the material, but the professor was unrelenting, telling him to come back next semester. By May, Franco had the top grade in the class and later, during his Ph.D. defense, that same professor announced that Franco had a better grasp of mathematics than any student he had ever taught.


Franco met his wife Paula through what she calls "the wise women's network." In late 1964 during his third year at Cornell, he attended a party hosted by Demetrius Lalas, his fellow graduate student and soccer team member. At the party, Franco spent time talking with Anne Harding, Lalas's date, who was an Italian major from Smith. "The next time you come," he said to her, "why don't you bring a friend?" Paula Ferris was that friend. They were married in 1966, with Anne as the maid of honor and Demetrius an usher. A year later, the two were married, and in 1970, they asked Franco and Paula to be godparents of their firstborn son, Alexi.

Early Career: Toronto, Boulder, Rome

After earning his Ph.D. at Cornell under Ian Axford, Franco held a postdoctoral fellowship from 1967 to 1969 under Colin Hines at the University of Toronto, where he did extensive research on gravity waves. This was a natural career step, as Axford and Hines had collaborated extensively on magnetospheric convection in prior years.

Hines paved the way for Franco to become the first visiting Fellow at NOAA's Environmental Laboratories, continuing his practice of sending his students and postdocs to the Boulder community, where they were invariably welcome. About the same year, George Chimonas, who'd also completed postdoctoral work under Hines at Toronto, made the move to Boulder. When Franco became a Fellow at CIRES, he was able to get Lalas invited to CIRES for a couple of weeks in 1972. Then, in 1973-74, Lalas--who was a professor at Wayne State in Detroit--returned for a sabbatical year at CIRES, and it was during that one year that they published five papers together, principally on atmospheric wave dynamics. The Einaudi-Lalas papers still stand as a benchmark study on the relationships of the wave stability related to atmospheric shear and moisture distribution. Franco remained at CIRES from 1969 to 1979, taking a oneyear sabbatical from 1976 to 1977 to work as the director of research at Italy's National Research Council in Rome.

This period of years proved very productive for Franco. He published numerous papers in both upper-atmospheric physics and in atmospheric wave dynamics. When Franco returned to Boulder after his sabbatical in Rome, he quickly resumed his prolific research, building a growing national and international reputation.

Mid-Career: Georgia Tech, Florence

Franco moved on to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was a professor of geophysical sciences from 1979 to 1986. Franco's contributions to Georgia Tech--both scientifically and administratively--were quickly in evidence. From 1984 to 1985, he took a sabbatical to work as a visiting professor at the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory on the outskirts of Florence, Italy. During this period, Franco applied his theoretical work into the study of turbulent flow. Furthermore, he expanded upon the theoretical gravity wave concepts developed with Lalas, to begin applying these concepts to case studies with actual data through graduate studies involving two students (James Stobie and Rossella Ferretti). It was through these efforts he developed a closer working relationship with Louis Uccellini at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, a relationship that paved the way for his next move.

Career Pinnacle: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)

In 1987, Franco took a position at the NASA Goddard Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences in Greenbelt, Maryland, with the intent to continue the collaboration on gravity wave studies with Louis Uccellini. His work with Uccellini at GSFC did not lead to any new publications on gravity waves, as their time together was cut short. Uccellini was offered, and accepted, the position of chief of the Meteorological Operations Division at the NWS National Meteorological Center, while Franco's management skills blossomed rapidly at NASA, where he quickly rose through the management ranks, first as the branch chief for the Severe Storms Branch, and then as chief of the Laboratory for Atmospheres (1990-2000) and the director of the Earth Sciences Division (2000-10). Several landmark Earth Science missions had Goddard roots or connections, including the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM), Aquarius, LandSat, Terra, Aqua, and many others. Programmatically, many of these missions came under his watch. However, the recollection that stands out to people like Marshall Shepherd was not the satellite missions or hardware associated with Franco's position. It was Franco's insistence on solid, credible, and world-class science. The NASA/GSFC laboratory and directorate were always lauded for their science, research papers, and global influence. He also infused his leadership with a deep sense of humanity, was always concerned about the welfare of those he led, and was always fighting to create opportunities for those less advantaged and underrepresented in our science. He retired from GSFC in 2010.

Franco's accomplishments at NASA were notable. He recognized that the science of data assimilation should become a key component of NASA's Earth Science mission, so he worked to create the Data Assimilation Office in 1992 and its successor, the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, in 2003. Under Franco's leadership, NASA GSFC set a course to become a leader in the development of reanalysis datasets for climate research, expand the use of satellite observations in weather and climate prediction, and inspire new missions. Franco created highly regarded organizations within the Earth Science Division at Goddard Space Flight Center specifically focused on these goals. Friend and colleague Tony Busalacchi recalls how instrumental

Franco was in creating internal collaboration and support when the two found themselves as laboratory chiefs in the Goddard Earth Sciences Directorate. Franco was in charge of the Laboratory for Atmospheres while Tony headed the Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes. Together with Dave Smith, the chief of the Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics, they led the three major Earth science labs at Goddard over the next 10 years.

"In positions such as these, one might expect competition for resources, civil servant billets, and promotions," Tony said. "Yet, as a direct result of the tone and tenor set by Franco, there was considerable cross-lab collaboration. On a regular basis, Franco would organize a breakfast among this 'Gang of Three' to provide mutual support for each labs' science."

Franco also recognized the immense potential benefit to the nation if NASA and NOAA could collaborate formally on key challenges in data assimilation, including how to accelerate the use of NASA's observations and research in NOAA's operational model systems. Together with Uccellini, now the director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and James Purdom (former director of the NOAA/NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research), Franco set the collaborative, interagency foundation for the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA) that was established in 2001. This effort was largely accomplished while working evenings and weekends in his kitchen, fueled by Franco's prized double-shot espresso machine. Today, the NASA/NOAA/Department of Defense JCSDA lies at the center of the effort to improve the assimilation of research and operational satellite data within operational numerical forecast models used for civilian and military applications.

Franco remained well out in front in recognizing that data assimilation--the harmonization of observations with numerical models of the Earth system--was key to accelerating improvements in models and the observation systems, while fully exploiting NASA's large investment in satellite-based observations for Earth sciences.

University Relationships

During Franco's tenure at Goddard, he created a number of successful joint institutes with universities, drawing on his experience at CIRES. These institutes increased the interaction with universities, attracted high-caliber scientists and mitigated the negative impact of reduced budgets. He viewed the university partnerships as a means to directly infuse cutting-edge research and new talent into government while at the same time creating opportunities for young scientists and graduate students that build their academic and scientific credentials.

According to friend and colleague Everett Joseph, Franco was a modest, courageous, and effective champion of advancing diversity in atmospheric science. He acted not only on a personal level but at community and institutional levels to lay a foundation for change that will continue to benefit women and underrepresented minorities well into the future.

"This is reflected in his long involvement with Howard University and the government-university partnerships he willed into existence around the Washington, D.C., Capital Beltway," Joseph said.

Franco was instrumental in starting and nurturing the fledgling Howard University Program in Atmospheric Science (HUPAS), which began in 1997.

"He was not only an advocate and strong supporter of the program, but also held it to the highest standard," Joseph said.

Franco's wide-reaching contributions at Howard University were wildly successful. For example, he developed an observation supersite at the Beltsville campus, a location that now serves as an R&D testbed for advancing observation science in weather, climate, and atmospheric chemistry, and trains the next generation of scientific leaders from underrepresented groups. As head of the Laboratory for Atmospheres, Franco facilitated an arrangement with Howard for NASA scientists to serve as adjunct faculty, research mentors, and dissertation committee members at Howard in atmospheric science.

"This support was invaluable, as it enabled HUPAS to offer a full curriculum and research mentorship to students as it grew from inception to a critical mass of full-time Howard faculty members," Joseph said.

Franco also facilitated critical support for two undergraduate summer internship programs targeted at attracting underrepresented students to STEM: the HBCU Academic and Research Consortium and the Goddard Howard Fellowship in Atmospheric Sciences. He arranged for the scientists working under him at the Laboratory for Atmospheres to serve as mentors for the programs. More than 200 students are estimated to have participated in these programs, many of whom went on to pursue scientific careers. Franco also mentored junior faculty at Howard, another important contribution to the growth and strengthening of HUPAS. Howard hired five junior faculty to support atmospheric science, and Franco mentored all to varying degrees, aiding access to opportunities and always challenging them to strive for excellence. All were promoted to the rank of full professor at Howard, have active research programs, and are in various leadership roles at Howard and/or in national organizations and associations. One of these mentees, Joseph, now leads the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Howard is not the sole beneficiary of Franco's contributions in academia. Owing to his roots and experience as a scientist at CIRES and as a professor at Georgia Tech, he was committed to building strong university-government partnerships. In the late 1990s, together with Steve Halperin, then dean of the College of Computer, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), Franco was the driving force behind the formation of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center there, with Tony Busalacchi becoming its first director. But UMCP was not the only Maryland university that attracted Franco's attention.

According to Freeman Hrabowsky, president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), "Franco made transformational changes in the relationship between NASA and universities. A member of a cooperative institute at both the University of Colorado and at Georgia Tech, he believed in the importance of nurturing graduate research and was a strong advocate for integrating university research into NASA's mission. We were fortunate at UMBC to have been an early beneficiary of this unique vision when he founded the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology in 1995 with UMBC Professor Harvey Melfi. His willingness to develop a partnership with a young, growing university, combined with our openness to a new model for federal/ university partnerships, helped UMBC reach the top ten in federal funding of research with NASA in the early 2000s."

In recognition of Franco's foresight, Hrabowsky presented him with an honorary doctorate from UMBC in 2008, a distinction so special that it was the only award Franco ever hung in his office. Franco was extremely proud of his relationship with UMBC and was particularly pleased whenever one of UMBC's graduate students would go on to work at NASA. In fact, many graduates and research faculty have become leaders in the Earth, Space, and Planetary sciences communities at NASA. It is unlikely the center would have been as successful without Franco and his creative vision of ways NASA could support the development of highly trained personnel.

"He was both a colleague and a friend of the University, and he will be greatly missed," Hrabowsky said.

"The impact of these institutional relationships on NASA/Goddard, on the institutes themselves, and on the careers of young scientists may not be widely known and appreciated, but were immeasurable," Joseph said. "Among those scientists who built careers and found opportunity through these partnerships were a cadre of women and minority scientists, some of whom are thriving in academia or as government scientists."

Personal Anecdotes/Relationships

Franco was known among friends and colleagues for his kind and humble nature. In 2006, he followed Walt Lyons as the AMS president.

"I most distinctly remember at the start of the Annual Meeting, he met me in a crowded hallway and asked if we could find a place to talk quietly," Lyons said. "We managed to locate an isolated corner of the convention center. He then most earnestly asked me just what I thought he needed to do to be a good AMS president."

Lyons was struck that a person of Franco's stature and experience would exhibit such humility and willingness to learn from those who came before him, as too often people assume that they already have the answers and barge ahead full speed without regard for the experiences of their predecessors.

Without fail, everyone who contributed stories for this tribute to Franco spoke about his playful humor, great storytelling, insatiable curiosity about people and interest in their lives, and warm hospitality. Invariably, these narratives revolve around Italian food and wine (che buono!). No matter where he traveled for conferences or meetings, Franco knew where to find the best Italian food, and he de lighted in sharing this important part of his heritage with others. But many people referred to Franco and Paula's lovely home in Columbia, Maryland, as command-and-con trol center, an unofficial think tank, where relationships blossomed and big ideas were born, and where he lured the best talent to work at NASA. He invited friends and strangers alike to break bread as they socialized, dreamed up new ideas, and developed plans.

Colleague Ron Gelaro, writes, "My personal story with Franco began in the late 1990s as I neared the end of an extended visit at ECMWF. Shortly before leaving the Centre, I asked Tony Hollingsworth, then Head of Research, for advice on where to work after returning to the U.S. Tony took almost no time to think before tearing a small piece of paper from the notepad on his desk and simply writing the name of Franco Einaudi on it. 'Call him,' he said, and so I did."

Gelaro continued, "Thus began a mostly serious, but often humorous, series of phone calls, emails, and chance meetings at conferences and other events, where Franco would discuss all the reasons to come to Washington: the scientific opportunities were great ... but also he needed more Italians! Franco loved to spot someone from across a crowded meeting room or hotel lobby and then just stop and point for a few seconds, with those electric eyes opened wide, before making a beeline. The 'Franco point' was a classic tactic that most who worked with him would experience many times over the years. Franco was also famous for his friendly arm clutches and his facial expressions and hand gestures when making a point in private. These were mostly silent but perfectly translatable."

Retirement: Continued dedication to diversity in the sciences

After formally retiring from NASA in 2010, Franco became a champion of advancing diversity in atmospheric science. With a questioning mind and an immigrant's sensibility, he worried that the community was not doing enough to prepare American citizens for careers in science. With the support of Jack Kaye at NASA headquarters and tapping into a continued source of new and exciting breakthroughs from his colleagues (through his customary nightly phone calls), he spent his retirement years lecturing at minority serving institutions across the country and attending conferences targeted at traditionally underrepresented students and scientists, sharing the wonder and joy of his life in science and inspiring all to participate.

Awards and Recognitions

Though no recognition rivaled his pride in the honorary doctorate he received from UMBC, Franco was a Fellow of AMS, a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a member of the American Geophysical Union and served as president of AMS in 2006-07. In 2014, he was awarded the AMS's Charles E. Anderson Award "for consistent, career-long personal efforts to increase diversity, and for leading institutional changes that will continue to create opportunities for women and under-represented minorities."

Family and Legacy

The Einaudis--a large, close-knit family that produced world-renowned scientists, musicians, publishers, and diplomats--are now spread to the four corners of the world, but San Giacomo is still the family reference point. Nestled in hills covered with vineyards, visitors use words like "villa" or "estate" to describe it today. Italy remained central to Franco's life, and through annual family trips there, he instilled pride in his sons for their Italian heritage. Franco and Paula were married for 54 years and share two adult children, sons Renato and Gian Paolo, who were his greatest joy and accomplishment. He also leaves behind an adoring daughter-in-law, Roxana, and three beloved granddaughters, Camila, Marcela, and Emma.

MARSHALL SHEPHERD: Personal influence as a mentor and his contributions at NASA

My first interactions with Franco were during my graduate school years, but I will begin this reflection with one of our last interactions. While attending a NASA Precipitation Science Team meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, Franco invited my family to dinner at his home. It was a wonderful Italian dinner and great conversation. Though he and Paula were meeting my family for the first time, it felt like a family gathering. I even remember them asking if the kids wanted wine (smile).

I felt a connection with Franco from the very moment I met him. I had completed a master's degree at Florida State University and my advisor contacted Franco Einaudi and Joanne Simpson because he knew that I was interested in working at NASA. I had even stated that during my valedictory address in high school. Franco took a meeting with me but also expressed that NASA was in the midst of a hiring freeze. Franco later shared with me that he immediately walked out of his office and told his assistant, "we have to find a way to hire this guy." Ultimately, I was hired as a contractor, but Franco assured me that I would be a NASA civil servant one day. However, there was a "but." He was adamant that I had to get my doctorate. I kept my end of the deal and so did Franco. This was the beginning of a mentor relationship that transcended him being just my "boss." As I reflect on Franco, his influence on my career and growth is undeniable.

Franco was a world-class scientist within atmospheric dynamics, specifically gravity waves, but he also understood people, the value of diversity, and the leadership nuances not taught in graduate school or management classes. Franco advocated for my appointment to deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission when many managers would have fallen back on the "he's too young" narrative. Franco insisted that I serve as the AMS councilor on the Executive Committee during his tenure as AMS president. This opportunity gave me valuable experience to assume my own role as AMS president years later. More recently, Franco Einaudi worked tirelessly with Jack Kaye at NASA Headquarters on a nomination for the Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which I received in 2020.

I'll miss the calls, emails, and discussions that I had with Franco long after both of our NASA tenures. We would discuss science, the political landscape, how to improve diversity within our field, families, or life in general. I grew up with my mother, but I had significant male figures in my life along the way. Franco Einaudi was definitely one of them.

Final Reflection: LOUIS w. UCCELLINI

Franco became like an older brother to me over the 46 years I knew him; mentoring, teaching, encouraging, and celebrating my career journey every step of the way. I am eternally grateful that Franco and Paula brought me and my growing family into their family and included me within their dynamic world of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues; and that Franco allowed me to be part of his life's journey right to the end. He will always rest easy on my mind and in my heart and soul.

This obituary is a compilation by Louis Uccellini and Susan Buchanan of personal contributions FROM SOME OF FRANCO'S CLOSEST FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES: LUIGI ElNAUDI, PAULA FERRIS EINAUDI, Everette Joseph, Tony Busalacchi, Bill Hooke, Andy Negri, Ron Gelaro, Marshall Shepherd, Walt Lyons, and Freeman Hrabowsky.
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Title Annotation:45 BEACON: OBITUARIES
Author:Uccellini, Louis; Buchanan, Susan
Publication:Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2021
Previous Article:Taking Action on DEIBA.

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