Diane McGurgan retires from CASW after four decades of service to science writing

Diane McGurgan

Diane McGurgan, whose unparalleled service to the science writing community spans more than four decades, will retire as administrator of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing at the end of this month. At its recent annual meeting in Washington, D.C., CASW’s board joined in a fond salute to McGurgan for her “invaluable and extraordinary contributions to our community.”

Retirement certificateBoard secretary Charlie Petit read “A Resolution To Mark the Regrettable but Inevitable Retirement of Diane McGurgan,” commemorating her 31 years of service to CASW as well as her additional service to the National Association of Science Writers.

The resolution noted that Diane, assisted by her husband Buddy, had “schlepped, moved, stored, ordered up, arranged for and managed uncountable quantities of paper, badges, tickets, restaurant reservations, bar bills and food trays,” that she has “refined the capacity to herd cats, soothe egos and meet crises to a fare-thee-well,” and that her name is woven into the fabric of the science writing community through the annual Diane McGurgan Service Award, which is given by NASW each year in recognition of extraordinary volunteer service.

McGurgan became NASW’s secretary in 1978. Nine years later, she was recruited to the CASW staff by then-President Barbara J. Culliton, who had earlier been president of NASW.

After her retirement from NASW in 2009, McGurgan continued to serve as CASW’s administrator — working with CASW Executive Director Ben Patrusky until his retirement in 2013, and since then with his successor, Rosalind Reid.

McGurgan has managed CASW’s awards and fellowship programs and handled the council’s governance and financial affairs. She played an indispensable logistical role in CASW’s signature program, the annual New Horizons in Science briefings, which are now part of the annual ScienceWriters conference.

Her final year was marked by one of CASW’s biggest undertakings, the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, which was organized jointly with NASW and took place in San Francisco in October 2017.

With McGurgan’s retirement, CASW will move its headquarters from Hedgesville, West Virginia — which became home base after Diane and Buddy relocated there from New York — to Seattle.

Sylvia Kantor, a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor, will become CASW’s administrator and communications manager on June 1. McGurgan will continue in a consulting role through November 2018, and is looking forward to the ScienceWriters2018 conference in October.

Leadership Tributes

“There is simply no way CASW could have accomplished all that it has over the past four decades without the extraordinary ministrations of Diane – not without her unflagging energy, her heart, her immense generosity, her attention to detail and the needs of others, her improvisational skills, her spirit of fun, her loyalty and, at the root of all, her abiding commitment to all practitioners of the science writing craft,” said Patrusky, who joined the CASW board in the salutes at its spring meeting. “In my years serving with her, I was never other than in her thrall, dazzled by her unfailing ability to soothe, to persuade, to anticipate and to analyze, grapple and help solve any problem or challenge that may have come CASW’s way.  She’s a phenom, a gift, for whom I and CASW will be forever grateful.”

CASW President Alan Boyle added: “Every organization worth its salt needs a Diane McGurgan: someone who seems to know everything and everyone in the community, who has the grit to do what needs to be done, and who has the heart to help others unselfishly.” Even though she’s retiring from her administrative duties, we want her to know we’ll never let her retire from our friendship.”

Executive Director Reid thanked Diane for postponing her retirement to ensure a successful World Conference and administrative transition. “CASW is an organization whose work is built on long and warm relationships, and the link in all those relationships is Diane, “ Reid said. “Her devotion to the work and needs of the community is simply unparalleled, and she will be missed by science writers from sea to sea. It has been my privilege to know Diane and to be able to rely on her intelligence, dedication, good sense and unique talents ever since I joined the CASW board more than a decade ago. What a remarkable career. What a deserved retirement!”

In their unanimously approved resolution, CASW’s board members expressed heartfelt gratitude for Diane’s invaluable and extraordinary contributions, and added a wish on behalf of the entire science writing community: “May her most-deserved retirement, and all the adventures still in store for her, be marked with health, happiness and the certain knowledge that her multitude of friends and colleagues will always remember The Essential Diane.”

Sylvia Kantor

CASW’s new administrator and communications manager, Sylvia Kantor, began working with CASW in 2017 during planning and fundraising for the World Conference of Science Journalists. She joined the staff part-time in early 2018 to edit a new donor newsletter, CASW Spotlight, and assist McGurgan and Reid with the administrative transition.

Kantor’s career includes stints as an agriculture science writer, research associate and extension educator at Washington State University from 1999 to 2016. Today she divides her time between her CASW work and independent writing and editing. She is a member of NASW, the Northwest Science Writers Association (NSWA), and the Northwest Independent Editors Guild.

Kantor holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in forestry from the University of Washington. In Seattle, she balances her digital life by making things with her hands, tending her garden, and attuning to the natural world on foot, by kayak, or on skis.

Read the full text (pdf) of the retirement resolution for Diane McGurgan.