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Optical Society Fills Director Position

Photonics Spectra
Jul 1998
Aaron J. Hand

The Optical Society of America has a new executive director. This month, John A. Thorner becomes the principal administrative officer, responsible for managing the society's programs and activities, and meeting society objectives.

John A. Thorner is the new executive director of the Optical Society of America.

The post opened in August, when David Hennage stepped down after more than four years as the executive director. Since then, three other executives -- Andrea Pendleton, director of communications; Elizabeth Rogan, director of finance; and Gus Rassam, publications director -- have teamed to serve as interim executive director.

Thorner has experience with scientific and engineering associations, coming from the 16,000-member Air and Waste Management Association in Pittsburgh, where he had been executive director since 1994. Before that, he was director of public affairs and general counsel at the Water Environment Federation in Alexandria, Va.

Thorner has worked with associations for 20 years, more than half of those years with scientific organizations. "I have been dealing with issues of the transfer of scientific and technical information, which is very important," he said, calling optics a dynamic field.

Originally from Great Neck, N.Y., Thorner has a bachelor's degree in history and political science from Duke University in Durham, N.C., a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York and a doctorate of law from the University of Georgia in Athens. He was a reporter for The Washington Post, The Associated Press and the Atlanta Constitution, and an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

"One of the reasons I was considered for this position was because of my journalism and legal background," Thorner said. He has practice in asking questions, he said, which will come in handy as he learns about the optics industry.

To expand the association's growth of the industry, he will be looking for ways to take advantage of new communication technologies, Thorner said. One of the things he worries about is that the Internet is not utilized to its fullest. "It's not enough to just slap a technical journal onto a Web site and say you've done your job," he said.

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