Mark Leininger, lab problem solver, retires Friday, July 29

Mark Leininger

Mark Leininger in 1978 at the home of Wally Wojak, a former Fermilab employee who also on the magnet program in the Technical Division.

Mark Leininger and former Fermilab employee Rich Hawel on a motorcycle to Devil’s Lake in 1974.

Mark Leininger is a problem solver. For the past few decades, he’s helped Fermilab solve problems that it hadn’t faced before, such as how to bend the magnets in the Main Ring to the proper curvature or how to give computational support to an entire collaboration.

But now, after more than 35 years, Leininger is ready to tackle some tasks in the next phase of his life. Leininger retires tomorrow. Stop by the second floor crossover from 12-2 p.m to say farewell.

“The laboratory really gave me a nice opportunity to essentially have two or three careers technically,” Leininger said. “It was really nice to be able to stay in one place and to build on my knowledge each step of the way.”

Leininger had trouble finding a job in the tough job market of the mid-1970s after graduating college. A former physics professor encouraged him to check out Fermilab, which he joined as an operator in 1976. Leininger’s problem-solving career took off when he began working a few years later building magnets for the energy saver/doubler – the machine that would eventually become the Tevatron.a

“I learned quickly that Mark was held in high regard by important people. He had been heavily involved in the refrigeration system for the Main Ring. It was his idea to use helicopters to install long sections of transfer line, a process that worked very well,” said Bob Wands, PPD, a close friend of Leininger’s who worked with him in the early 1980s. “He shares information very readily, and he taught me a lot about how the lab works and what to expect from mechanical engineering in our environment.” Along the way, Leininger became interested in computing and began to pursue his master’s degree in computer science. That interest soon led him to tackling computing support problems.

“I liked to set up small task forces that worked across department lines to accomplish things,” said Joel Butler, current US CMS project manager and head of the Computing Division in the mid-1990s. “Mark was one of my problem solvers and go-to guys who led these task forces. He had real technical strengths and great people skills, which made him uniquely qualified to tackle tough projects.”

One of those tough projects included giving the collider collaborations their own computing support. Leininger led the team that worked closely with CDF and Computing Division in that capacity.

His ability to work across divisions and sections and the way Leininger could relate to people were some reasons Chief Information Officer Vicky White chose Leininger to head the laboratory’s computer security program.

“I could see that he was a person with the sort of character, integrity and interpersonal skills to do that job,” White said. “He exceeded my expectations with everything he’s done for us. He’s been immensely valuable for the computing sector and has moved everything forward.”

Recently, Leininger has overseen the office of the CIO as well as continuing in the role of Computer Security manager.

“All of our groups have flourished under his leadership,” White said. “Mark’s retirement will be a colossal loss for the computing sector. He leaves a hole that I don’t know how we’ll fill.”

Although Leininger is looking forward to spending his time hiking and working on projects around the house he has mixed feelings about leaving. He’s made great friends here and feels lucky to have contributed to the success of the laboratory.

“It’s unusual these days for there to be people you’ve known and worked with for over 30 years,” said Tom Nicol, TD. “Even though we haven’t worked together for a long time, the bond we formed as young engineers at the lab remains strong. I’ll miss knowing Mark is out there and running into him once in a while very much. I know he’ll have fun no matter what he does.”

Rhianna Wisniewski