AAVSO Contributors Honored

AAVSO presented awards to their recipients at the 108th Annual Meeting


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (October 24, 2019)—At the 108th American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) Annual Meeting, four people were honored for their contributions to the organization and pursuit of its mission at the banquet held on Sunday night.

The Merit Award is given to someone who provides invaluable contributions in time and effort to AAVSO. This year, AAVSO determined two individuals who most embody this honor—David Benn and Patrick Wils. AAVSO Board President Gordon Myers stated that Benn “has contributed thousands of hours to AAVSO. [In particular,] his work on the VStar software has provided an invaluable tool advancing the period analysis of variable stars done by both amateurs and professionals.” Without Patrick Wils volunteering countless hours to AAVSO’s International Variable Star Index (VSX), we would not have reached the star data milestones achieved in VSX this year. In addition to this service, Myers said that Wils “developed numerous Application Programming Interfaces for AAVSO software” and is a valued mentor.  

                   AAVSO Director's Award
             recipient, Kris Larsen, giving a
               speech upon being honored

Kristine (Kris) Larsen was honored with the Director’s Award, named to describe an observer (selected by the director) who provides an outstanding quality and quantity of observations, while also participating in other efforts of the organization. Kris, a professor and past president of AAVSO, works to ensure equality and diversity in science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) education and fields, both within and outside the realm of astronomy. “Kris,” AAVSO Director Stella Kafka, said fondly, “has been, is, and will be, an exceptional ally, friend, teacher, mentor, and a great inspiration for me.” A person consistently working towards bettering both AAVSO and her communities through her steadfast guidance, Kris shows day after day why she is the recipient of this award.

Involved with the AAVSO for the past 40 years, previous council member and president (1999–2001), Lee Anne M. Willson, was honored with the William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award. The award was created to exalt someone who encourages participation in variable star astronomy and is a valuable mentor. AAVSO Board secretary and aforementioned Director’s Award winner, Kris, declared that Willson was provided the distinction “for her support and leadership of the AAVSO, her seminal research into the nature and evolution of Mira and semiregular variable stars, her service as an ambassador between the professional and amateur astronomy communities, her inspiring education of students, and her outreach activities with the general public.” While wearing numerous hats within the astronomical community, including that of emeritus professor of Iowa State University, Willson continuously upholds the mission of AAVSO. Lee Anne has made a difference in the prominence of women in STEM careers with the American Astronomical Society, both on the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, and as vice president. She continues to extend the reach of AAVSO and welcome budding scientists who hold valuable intellects and skills.

Although Sunday’s banquet was a night of moments full of heartfelt gratitude for four outstanding contributors to AAVSO, we would be amiss to not express our sincere thanks to all who are a part of AAVSO and its successes, scientific contributions towards research, mission, and vision.


About the AAVSO

The American Association of Variable Star Observers is an international, non-profit, worldwide scientific and educational organization of amateur and professional astronomers who are interested in stars that change in brightness—variable stars. Its mission is to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy. For more information, visit www.aavso.org.



Stella Kafka, Ph.D.
CEO & Director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers
(617) 354-0484