David Ritchie retires after 40 years at Fermilab

David Ritchie

There will be a farewell party for David Ritchie tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second floor crossover in Wilson Hall. Cake will be served.

David Ritchie remembers his early days at Fermilab in the summer of 1971. Wilson Hall was a work in progress, and there were monarch butterflies everywhere. Ritchie and his colleagues in the Computing Department worked from their offices in the Village. The big news at the time was an indication of the first circulating beam in the main accelerator ring.

After 40 years in computing, Ritchie will retire from Fermilab on Oct. 7.

“The interesting thing about working for the Computing Sector is that the projects are always changing,” said Ritchie. “The people and the computing have to change in order to incorporate new technology.”

Ritchie, who began his laboratory career writing and debugging computer programs, participated in the evolution from single-use data acquisition systems and stand-alone computers to the Internet and grids. But despite his interest in technology, much of Ritchie’s work has involved interfacing with staff, visitors and students. Most recently, he headed the Communications and Outreach Group and organized Fermilab’s participation in the annual Supercomputing conference.

“David has a deep knowledge about Fermilab, its history and its contributions to science and computing,” said Ruth Pordes, Ritchie’s colleague. “His commitment to our mission extends into teaching and mentoring students, with several moving on to lasting careers in a technical or scientific field.”

One endeavor near to Ritchie’s heart is the three-year project in which he oversaw a series of students who designed a temperature monitoring program for computer rooms.

“You both benefit from such relationships,” he said. “It doesn’t take much effort to help students accomplish something much greater than what they thought they could.”

Engaging others, Ritchie believes, is the best way to get things done.

“Collaborating in order to develop and improve the way we work has been really satisfying,” he said.

—Marcia Teckenbrock