The William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award

Members of the AAVSO present William Tyler Olcott (seated, center) with a token of the Association's regard and appreciation. The inscription reads: "To William Tyler Olcott from the members - The American Association of Variable Star Observers, May 5th, 1917 - in recognition and appreciation of his loyal leadership of the Association, his unfailing courtesy and cordial assistance, and his untiring efforts to foster and promote among the amateurs of America the observation and study of variable stars."


The William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award—Initiated in 2000, this award is presented to a member of the AAVSO organization for outstanding contributions in mentoring/promoting variable star astronomy.

19. 2023—Kenneth T. Menzies

"...for his promotion of variable star astronomy through his leadership and tireless efforts in support of AAVSOnet, as an extraordinary educator in AAVSO CHOICE courses, as a longtime mentor, and through his publications and presentations on variable star data analysis.”
Ken is involved in many aspects of AAVSOnet, and is responsible for scheduling all accepted observation proposals onto the network telescopes. He also acts as first point of contact for users having difficulty with resulting images.

As a VPhot expert, Ken has mentored an ever-increasing number of AAVSO members and observers through his formulating and teaching AAVSO’s VPhot CHOICE course – this year marks his tenth time of instructing observers via this course in the science and art of using VPhot to reduce photometry.

Through his publications and presentations, he has taught us all how to generate transform coefficients and how to use them properly to enhance our data analysis and the scientific value of our data.
In addition to these formal activities, Ken continues to mentor AAVSO members and observers through his extensive, detailed, and patient explanations on the VPhot and AAVSOnet forums.
Through Ken’s patience, sense of humor, and use of the Socratic Method in teaching, he has proven to be an educator capable of reaching all students. Ken stands out as a quietly competent force within the AAVSO, never seeking acclaim or notice, just working in the background to lift members and observers requiring help in gathering and analyzing quality data. Without Ken we would be a lesser organization.
It is an honor to present Ken with the AAVSO William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award.

plaque photo coming

18. 2022—Lauren Herrington

“...for her mentorship and introduction of AAVSO members to the field of spectroscopy, her support of the AAVSO’s new AVSpec Spectroscopy Database, her support of the AAVSO webinar series, and her service as an AAVSO Ambassador.”

As a young person who has significantly contributed to the introduction of spectroscopy to the AAVSO membership, Lauren has been a shining example of not only how AAVSO members at all ages can contribute to the science of astronomy, but how they can also demonstrate leadership in doing so. She has been instrumental in helping to increase participation in the AAVSO’s Spectroscopy Section and has done so through “open houses” that she has conducted. She has also has contributed significantly to the refinement and use of the AAVSO’s new AVSpec Spectroscopy Database. She has not only hosted most of the AAVSO’s webinars for the past two years, but she has conducted her own “How-to Hour” on spectroscopy. In addition to all of these accomplishments, Lauren has been an active AAVSO Ambassador.

Lauren stands out as a wonderful example of an AAVSO member whose initiative and leadership help to increase the knowledge and tool set that benefit the rest of the AAVSO membership. 

It is thus fitting that we honor her today and present her with the AAVSO William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award.

17. 2021—Arlo Landolt

"... for his promotion of variable stars and astronomy; his AAVSO membership since 1997 and over ten years of service on the AAVSO Council/Board; his pioneering work in photoelectric photometry, and the creation of the Landolt Standard star fields, which established a firm photometric foundation used by both professional and amateur astronomers; his leadership in the IAU Photometry community since 1979; and his mentoring of many AAVSO members, being always willing to listen and to offer advice.“

Arlo is known for his active work with the AAVSO and its members. He has provided support, council, and done collaborative research with AAVSO directors and staff.

His career includes many significant achievements:

  • AAVSO Council/Board member - 2006–2009; 2010-2012; 2017-2019
  • AAVSO observer (LAL) - 454 photometric observations made during research over the years
  • AAVSO Special Citation in 2019 “in recognition of his dedication, long service to the AAVSO Council and exceptional work with the JAAVSO, leading to identifying our new Editor-in-Chief”
  • contributor to the AAVSO General Fund, Annual Campaign, Director's Discretionary Fund
  • Secretary of the American Astronomical Society 1980-1989, 1995-2004
  • International Astronomical Union: Division IX Optical & Infrared Techniques (Past Advisor 2003-2006, Past President 2000-2003, Past Organizing Committee Member 2000-2006), and Commission 25 Astronomical Photometry and Polarimetry (Past President 2003-2006, Past Vice President 1997-2003, Past Organizing Committee Member 1979-1985, 1991-1997, 2006-2009)
  • Pioneering work in photoelectric photometry
  • Creation of the Landolt Standard star fields, which established a firm photometric foundation used by both professional and amateur astronomers
  • First discoverer of a pulsating white dwarf (HL Tau)
  • Author or co-author of over 240 publications
  • Asteroid 15072 was named for him - Landolt
  • There is a fascinating oral history interview with Arlo which can be found at
  • George van Biesbroeck Award from the American Astronomical Society in 1995
  • LSU Distinguished Faculty Award in 1998
  • Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society in 2020

We celebrate Arlo for his many contributions to astronomy and the astronomical communities, and it is an honor to present him with the AAVSO William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award.

(2020—online Meeting; no award made)

16. 2019—Lee Anne Willson

“...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.”

During her four decades of active work with the AAVSO and its members, Lee Anne has led by example. Not only did she serve fourteen years as a Council Member and as President from 1999-2001, but she has made significant contributions to the Organization in less visible ways, such as serving on committees and generously sharing her support, counsel, and experience with AAVSO directors and staff. Lee Anne is also a well-respected practitioner of variable star science, having made fundamental discoveries as one of the world’s leading theorists regarding Mira variables and stellar pulsation. Her receiving the AAVSO's 41st Merit Award in 2008 was therefore well-deserved.

Lee Anne Willson has also distinguished herself in the broader astronomical community, not only as a faculty member who has mentored countless students at the undergraduate through post-doc levels at Iowa State University, but through her public outreach. A vocal advocate for women in science, she has not only received the American Astronomical Society’s Annie Jump Cannon Award but has been an active participant in improving the professional culture of astronomy through her work on the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, on AAS Council, and as AAS Vice President. She has also provided invaluable service to the astronomical community through her work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).

While she is an expert on stars whose behavior is sometimes less than reliable, Lee Anne can always be counted upon to provide leadership, advice, and support to anyone, anywhere, who wishes to be successful in variable star astronomy. As such, she embodies the very mission of the AAVSO. It is therefore our great pleasure to present this 16th AAVSO William Tyler Olcott Distinguished Service Award to Lee Anne M. Willson.

15. 2018—Virginia Trimble

"... for her influential five-decade-long body of research in astronomy, including work on myriad types of variable stars; her outstanding service to the discipline through her annual reviews of advances in astrophysics as well as her work with professional organizations; her ability to bring to life the history of astronomy and communicate effectively with the public; and her invaluable service as a mentor and role model to multiple generations of astronomers."

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14. 2017—Mario E. Motta

"...for his tireless work at the local through national level to protect our precious night skies from the ravages of light pollution, thereby guaranteeing the future of variable star observing; his decades of service to amateur telescope making, public outreach, and education through his work with the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, the Springfield Telescope Makers, the International Dark-Sky Association, and the AAVSO; and his leadership within the AAVSO."

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13. 2016—Donn R. Starkey

“...for his for his enthusiastic commitment to educating and mentoring both the current and next generation of variable star observers, and assuring the future success of the AAVSO through his forward-thinking service on Council, lending his considerable business acumen to the Investment and Budget Committees, and serving as a tireless advocate for the observation of variable stars.”

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12. 2015—Edward F. Guinan

“...for his promotion of variable star research and astronomy education globally; his tirelessly empowering generations of scientists of various backgrounds; his own ongoing cutting-edge variable star research, promoting the AAVSO; his dedicated student and peer mentoring; his demonstration of and advocacy for best practices; and his leadership and service within the AAVSO and the astronomy communities.”

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(2014no award made)

(2013no award made)

11. 2012—Timothy R. Crawford

“...for his many years of patiently mentoring observers, giving inspirational talks to astronomy clubs and societies, and his tireless creation of comparison star sequences for observers.”

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10. 2011—Brian A. Skiff

"...for his unwavering support of variable star astronomy and observing, in both the professional and non-professional realms, through his ambassadorial online presence as friend and mentor to those yearning to learn more about variable stars and astronomy in general, as well as his tenacious dedication to the betterment of astronomical data worldwide."

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(2010no award made)

9. 2009—Karen Meech

"... for her promotion of variable star observing through her distinguished work as astronomer and educator, her service to the AAVSO as Council member and colleague, and her being both friend and inspirational role model to teachers and students of astronomy."

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8. 2008—Vladimir Strelnitski

"... for his tireless promotion of astronomy to the public and his keen mentorship of future astronomers through the Maria Mitchell Observatory REU Program."

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7. 2007—John R. Percy

"...for his promotion of variable stars and astronomy education through his ongoing research, dedicated student and peer mentoring, consistent demonstration of and advocacy for best practices in teaching, leadership within the AAVSO and the astronomy and science education communities, and his commitment to public education."

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6. 2006—Mary Ann Kadooka

"... for her promotion of variable star astronomy through her tireless and inspirational work with educators and students as a leader, a mentor, and a friend to anyone wanting to learn astronomy."

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5. 2005—Janet A. Mattei
"...for her untiring promotion of variable star observing through her manifold activities as teacher, speaker, mentor, advocate, colleague, researcher, and administrator for over 30 years, and through her unfailing belief in the essential value of variable star observing and variable star observers."

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(2004 - no award given)

4. 2003—Edward A. Halbach

"...for his untiring promotion of variable star observing through his activities since 1933 as an observer, mentor of countless amateur astronomers and young people, leader of organizations, creator of innovative and efficient equipment and procedures, and through his generous willingness to help those who share his astronomical interests."

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3. 2002—Dorrit Hoffleit

"... for her legacy to variable star astronomy through her research, publications, student mentoring, support, and popularization for over 70 years, and for her being such an especially faithful, devoted, and supportive member and friend of the AAVSO since 1930."

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2. 2001—Leif J. Robinson

"...for his untiring promotion of variable star astronomy in the pages of Sky & Telescope magazine during his many years as Editor and Editor-in-Chief, and for his enthusiastic fostering of the Amateur-Professional Partnership."

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1. 2000—David H. Levy

"... for his promotion of variable star astronomy through his many writings and public lectures that both educate and inspire those who love the starry sky."

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