Bob Goodwin retires after 42 years at Fermilab

Bob Goodwin

There will be a farewell party for Bob Goodwin today at 11:30 a.m. at the Honey Jam Cafe in Batavia.

Bob Goodwin may be retiring Sept. 30, but it’s likely his colleagues will see him around Fermilab well after that date.

“As I retire from the lab, I’m not anxious to leave,” said Goodwin, who has worked at Fermilab developing software for 42 years. He hopes to return occasionally with the formal title of guest scientist.

That doesn’t surprise his colleagues in the Accelerator Controls Department. They nervously laugh about the panic they feel over losing Goodwin’s 42 years of experience, but know they can call him anytime and he’ll be happy to help.

“That’s Bob. It’s really phenomenal everything he has done,” said Mike Sliczniak, who has worked with Goodwin for nine years and learned a lot from him in AD. “He is a very impressive guy.”
A 1969 Aurora Beacon-News article highlights Bob Goodwin’s work.

Sliczniak said Goodwin is meticulously organized and keeps a daily dairy detailing his work. Many of his notes and records are already online for others to use, he said.

“There will be a big void in the department when he retires because of his institutional knowledge. What he does, he does very well,” said Dennis Nicklaus, Goodwin’s supervisor. Nicklaus also commented on Goodwin’s helpful nature. Goodwin has passing his knowledge on to others in the department to ease the transition.

Although the decision to retire was difficult, Goodwin said, at 70 years old, he knew it was time.

“I didn’t want to work my whole life,” he said, noting that it’s fitting that he is retiring along with the Tevatron.

Goodwin started at the laboratory before Wilson Hall was built. He worked in the nuclear physics lab at the University of Minnesota before he was recruited to work at Fermilab.

“I hadn’t heard about it,” he said. “When they asked me to visit I said ‘Sure, will you pay my way?'”

Goodwin opted to work as a consultant heading south to Batavia every other week as the new team of scientists worked to meet a June 26, 1969 deadline to accelerate protons to 10 MeV for the first time. They made the deadline, and Goodwin started full time at the laboratory soon after.

“I decided that was probably a smart thing to do,” he said, recalling the “pioneering spirit” of the laboratory’s early days. “You knew you were doing something new and you were pushing boundaries.”

But change and updates are a part of life at the laboratory and shutting down the Tevatron is part of that evolution, Goodwin said.

“They knew there would be a point to shut down and make way for other things,” he said. “We have to look ahead.”

That said, Goodwin is glad that some of his work will continue to assist the laboratory’s scientists well into the future.

“The control system software that I wrote will have to support the Linac for many years, perhaps 10 or 15,” he said.

In the meantime, Goodwin said his next challenge will be adjusting to retirement.

Goodwin and his wife, Linda, recently celebrated their 47th anniversary while on an Alaskan cruise.They plan to stay in the St. Charles home they built in 1969.

“I’m not going to California or anything,” he said. “There are a lot of colleagues and coworkers I’ll miss.I think I will show up from time to time.”

Victoria Pierce