Mike Helfert - Doctorate: Geography (Climate Global Environment), 1974

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I took some risks coming to UT late, after 9 years in the military. At UT, I was in a hurry, being a poor grad student with two kids – so, yeah, I challenged some courses, found some faculty mentors, and went directly for a PhD to save time (I was old). UT supported me with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, and allowed me to spend my PhD research year at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to pursue finding climate signals in deep-sea cores.

My degree then allowed me the opportunity to teach in universities for several years, and then spend 30 years doing research at both NASA and NOAA on global climate and global environmental changes. I then was privileged to contribute to Agristars (a global Landsat research environmental program) at NASA-JSC as the NOAA Program Manager, then to run the Earth Observatory portion of the Shuttle program for numerous missions – I think the last mission I worked was STS-106; the first was STS-5. Then working in the SEASAT and EOS programs in Washington D.C., then after my first retirement to become a State Climatologist and a Regional Climate Center Director, and to become the Program Manager at the National Climate Data Center (Asheville, NC) for the implementation of the U.S. Climate Reference Network stations around the USA, and overseas (Andes, Kilimanjaro, Siberia, etc.).

None of this would have been possible without the disciplinary training and networking afforded by The University of Texas. UT took a risk on me, just as large as the gambles I took at UT. I thank them for not being so traditional – that is to be so academically hidebound and narrow as to not allow me to run freely as possible – that is by allowing my explorations to be unconfined.

We have both profited ... and that is just as it should be... Thank you.

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