President's Letter, April 2021

It finally looks like the dark cloud COVID brought to the world will lift in 2021.  Thanks go to the global medical community, scientists, and leaders for their remarkable work over the past year.  The short time between the first COVID outbreak and today's global inoculation campaign is a tribute to the scientific community worldwide. And that leads me to our Annual Meeting.

The AAVSO 110th Annual meeting to be held November 5–7

We're optimistic that vaccinations will lead to a partial return to normalcy by November.  Therefore, after a lengthy discussion, the Board agreed to hold a hybrid meeting this year—in person in the Boston area with key events to be ZOOMed worldwide for those who cannot attend.  We will follow all CDC and Massachusetts COVID guidelines. We'll require attendees to provide evidence of vaccination to ensure attendees a safe environment. It will be great to see many of you in person! If pandemic conditions unexpectedly worsen and it becomes unsafe to meet in person, we will hold the meeting entirely online.

Results from the Strategic Plan Fundraising Campaign

We completed our fundraising campaign on March 31st. The total raised—$135,277—was short of our $200,000 goal, but even this amount provides critical funds to reduce withdrawals from our endowment.  We will reduce some of our plans, but it will enable us to continue most of our planned new initiatives. Thanks to the over 200 members who contributed to AAVSO's future!

AAVSO Headquarters Building Sale

A key objective of our strategic plan was to establish a sound long-term financial plan for AAVSO. Over several years, there was extensive analysis of different investment strategies, including discussions with CAP consultants, financial advisors, and our Investment Committee.  The Board concluded we should sell our building and add the proceeds from the sale to our endowment.  

We recently accepted an offer from a local developer. The offer is contingent on them receiving Cambridge city's approval of a zoning change.  Approval is expected to take 6–12 months, so our move date out of the building is not yet firm. We plan to lease new office space in the greater Cambridge area. 

David Cowall Steps Up to AAVSO First Vice-President

You may have noticed on our website that Bill Stein stepped down as First Vice-President, and David Cowall was elected to fill that position by the Board.  Bill joined the Board in 2015 and served as First VP for the past five years.  He remains on the Board, assuming David's at-large seat.  David joined the Board in 2019.  My sincere thanks to Bill for his dedicated service and work as First VP, and thanks to David for being willing to volunteer and take on his new responsibilities. More information on our board structure can be found here:

Request for your story—why did you become interested in astronomy and AAVSO?

I recently asked members to write up their personal stories describing how they first became interested in astronomy and what led them to AAVSO.  Sixteen members sent me their stories—you can read them here ("AAVSO Member Stories").  It is a fascinating read, bringing AAVSO to life.  I encourage all of you to write up your own stories and send them to me at  We'll consolidate them into version 2 of the document and post it on the website.  Even a one-page write-up would be great.  I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I have.

Donn Starkey

I close this letter on a sad note.  Donn Starkey, one of our most active observers and a former Board member, recently passed away.  He was one of the first members I met when I joined AAVSO and provided me guidance and support over the past seven years.  He was a good friend to many members and will be missed.


Clear skies!