Treasury of Times & Origins

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AOGS: A pleasant remembrance

Benjamin Fong Chao
AOGS President – 2016 to 2018
Institute of Earth Science, Academia Sinica

In 2005 I attended, my first, AOGS’ second annual meeting in Singapore. I attended with curiosity in my then narrow, America-centric mindset. Having worked at NASA for two decades I had begun to travel more frequently to the Orient particularly in conjunction with Taiwan’s then-newly established space program, and later returned to work in Taiwan in 2006. I had owed my professional growth to AGU a great deal, but that was AGU, in the USA. I could imagine what AOGS could mean to geosciences and geoscientists in THIS region, a vast and diversified region of Asia and Oceania. I entered a crusade to attend the AGOS annual meetings, although missing a couple in between, and to participate in AOGS activities with various capacities (including being the immediate former-President of Taiwan’s CGU which hosted the AOGS 2011 annual meeting in Taipei). It was like witnessing a wobbling kid grow into a young gentleman while having the opportunity along the way to watch and to cheer at all the basketball games he had played in.

A poetic yet inspiring ancient Chinese script, 篳路藍縷以啟山林 , describes how human ancestors open up the mountains and forests with bare bamboo-carts and clad in ragged wearings. It meant just a literal saying to me until I grew to realize and appreciate the extent of challenges to be faced in creating something grand from a meager start of zero. That is how AOGS get started, and that is how much I come to revere the AOGS pioneers. Thinking back, perhaps the best I can claim in personal relation to AOGS heritage is that I had known Wing Ip (and Diana, aka Mrs. Ip) since my graduate-school days at UCSD. Short of being a pioneer, I consider myself as one of a “second generation” of AOGS. Now serving as the President of AOGS for 2016-2018, I join the predecessors in fulfilling an extraordinary cause and service to the thriving organization. Needless to say it comes with great responsibilities and challenges. On one hand, the organization has had a sound establishment with unique and valued culture; on the other it surely poises to advance and evolve with our changing world.

My actual AOGS President duties started just a bit earlier than expected; the time was August of 2016, at the annual meeting held in Beijing. Prof. Chen Yun-Tai, the then President, was admitted to hospital for a heart surgery less than a month earlier and could not chair that meeting. So I had to step in on short notice. That probably makes me the only President that would host 3, instead of 2, annual meetings, in the meantime looking to the 2017 Singapore and 2018 Honolulu meetings to come.

Certainly a great pleasure as the President is getting to know and work with many devoted fellow scientists via various AOGS capacities. The most amazing person, nevertheless, is Ms. Khoo Cheng-Hoon of MeetingMatters that runs the AOGS secretariat. Cheng-Hoon is the glue that bounds the organization of AOGS together like a family – a role I would describe as “motherhood” even though she is a generation junior to me (and to many others she babies).

In a year’s time I wish to add more words of pride (and of wisdom?) to the TOTO page, this live, permanent webpage forum archived in AOGS.