Bob Webber retired from Fermilab after nearly 40 years

Bob Webber

Bob Webber’s subtle sense of humor was apparent as he commented on the laundry list of major accomplishments that marked nearly 40 years with Fermilab.

“If you’ve been someplace 40 years, you have to accomplish something or it looks bad,” he quipped.

Webber, who worked in the accelerator test facilities department for advanced accelerator projects in the Accelerator Division, retired on Oct. 7. He started at Fermilab in 1972.

A casual mention of Fermilab by a professor at Iowa State University eventually led Webber to his life’s work in Batavia.

“I remember one of the professors was talking about how they’re building a great big new accelerator in Batavia, Illinois,” Webber said. “At the time, I had no idea what that meant.”

But after graduation, he saw a job listing for the laboratory. He applied, eventually became a charter member of the Accelerator Physics Center and then the deputy head.

“For all the years there was always something new and exciting to do,” Webber said. “I had the privilege to work on many things and to meet people who were willing to give me the opportunity to participate.”

And participate, he did.

Beginning as a switchyard specialist, through the mid-1970s Webber worked on the Booster H- injection; specifically on the original H-stripping foil assembly. He also worked on the original Tevatron beam position monitor system, and, by the 1980s, he found himself working on Tevatron radio-frequency (RF) cavity design simulations.

Through the 1980s, Webber contributed to the DC beam current transformer design and construction work and the Antiproton Source beam position monitoring systems. He also worked on the construction and installation of low-level RF and beam instrumentation hardware for the Loma Linda synchrotron. Loma Linda, based in California, uses the machine designed and built by Fermilab engineers and scientists to treat cancer patients with proton therapy.

“Loma Linda was a big deal 20 years ago, and now it’s treating patients daily,” Webber said.

When he wasn’t constructing life-saving machinery, Webber liked to play golf in his spare time. He plans to continue his game. His long-time colleague Steve Holmes, project manager for Project X, often accompanied him on the golf course. According to Holmes, Webber is the only one of their golf foursome to improve since they started playing 20 years ago.

“Webber is a great engineer,” Holmes said. “Underneath his mild manner, there is a competitive streak.”

More recently, Webber was the APC department head and a project manager in AD. Roger Dixon, head of the Accelerator Division, said that Webber’s calm demeanor hid a powerhouse of ability.

“He is the type of person who quietly gets things done. If you want to get something organized, he is the person to do it,” said Dixon. “Bob is one of the most solid, even-keeled people I have ever worked with. I’m feeling a little insecure that he’s leaving.”

—Rita Hoover