Berkeley Lab

Retirement Best Wishes to Martha Condon After Four Decades of Service

Martha Condon Directors Award portrait ca. 2019

Directors Award portrait, 2019

After a career that spanned 41 years, seven Presidents, six Lab directors, and seven Division Directors, we bid farewell and happy retirement to a star among the hidden figures who support our scientific achievements: Senior Division Administrator Martha Condon.

ATAP Interim Director Thomas Schenkel says, “Excellence in administration is an essential part of how Berkeley Lab achieves excellence in science, and Martha’s contributions have been key to the Division. Martha’s remarkable career behind the scenes has been essential to running our scientific programs and projects.”

Martha earned a reputation as the go-to person for the most difficult challenges. She supported the Division during numerous directorship transitions and aided in startup of projects and new scientific programs and managed numerous conferences and reviews while also managing day-to-day administrative functions, ensuring stewardship of institutional resources and people.

“Excellence in administration is an essential part of how Berkeley Lab achieves excellence in science, and Martha’s contributions have been key to the Division”

—ATAP Interim Director Thomas Schenkel

Stephen Gourlay learned of her skills while a Program Head and AFRD Director. He calls her “one of the unsung heroes of Berkeley Lab,” adding, “I cannot think of any operational aspect of the Division she was not in some way involved with,” and “I worked with many excellent staff members from my own Division as well as others, and Martha is exceptional.” He adds, “I never, in the 20 years I worked with her, saw her show any frustration, impatience or ill will toward anyone.”

Martha Condon and Olivia Wong

Olivia Wong (r.) and Martha kept AAC08 running smoothly

“She was always on top of things, even when chaos reigned,” recalls retired AFRD Deputy Director Jose Alonso. When the Laboratory hosted the 2001 International Conference on Ion Sources. Alonso recalls that “we just could not have done it without Martha’s tireless persistence and leadership {…} everything worked without a hitch.”

Arranging and running events of all sizes — from retirement celebrations, through meetings and reviews, up to workshops and conferences with hundreds of paid attendees — is one of Martha’s strengths, praised specifically by Ka-Ngo Leung of UC-Berkeley, retired colleague Joy Lauritzen, former Center for Beam Physics head John Byrd (now a division director at ANL), and Fernando Sannibale, program head for ALS Accelerator Physics. Such events have become more and more prominent in ATAP, and subject to heightened regulation and oversight.

From ICIS01, through 2008’s pair of major events (the Advanced Accelerator Concepts Workshop and the Beam Instrumentation Workshop), to the many topical meetings and workshops of recent years and the in-progress 2020 Advanced Accelerator Concepts Workshop Seminar Series, Martha’s involvement has meant assurance that an event will run smoothly and comply with requirements so the arrangers can focus on the subject matter.

It is just one of many things she does well. William A. Barletta, retired AFRD Director, recalls how “we recommended her for ever increasing responsibilities including supervising other administrative personnel. In every case her performance always exceeded expectations and kept the programs that she served running smoothly and efficiently.” Barletta recalls that when he was detailed to the UC Office of the President and Rick Gough served as Interim Division Director, “thanks to the efforts of the Gough-Condon team [LBNL Director Steve] Chu told me that I had the best accelerator program—”pound for pound”—in the world.”

Looking back across his career, spanning 30 years and multiple institutions, Eric Esarey, Director of BELLA Center and Chair of the 2020 Advanced Accelerator Concepts Workshop, offers, “Martha is by far the best administrator with whom I have worked,” adding, “I would not be able to organize AAC 2020 without her assistance.”

“A treasured member of my Operations team, a solver of the hardest problems, a mentor to others, and always a source of great counsel”

—ATAP Deputy Division Director for Operations Asmita Patel

Operations team bids Martha farewell

Operations Team bids Martha farewell

Customer praise like that is echoed by people who have worked with Martha. ATAP Deputy Division Director for Operations Asmita Patel describes her as “a treasured member of my Operations team, a solver of the hardest problems, a mentor to others, and always a source of great counsel” and adds, “I was incredibly pleased to see a member of support staff recognized with the Director’s Award, and she was a very richly deserving candidate.”

Spallation Neutron Source Front-End Systems team picture

For decades, teams like the Spallation Neutron Source Front-End Systems group, shown here at project completion in 2002, have found Martha invaluable. (Click for larger version.)

Retired AFRD administrator Olivia Wong recalls how “She sets a high standard of excellence for herself, and that motivates others around her to strive for the same standard.” Retired ATAP executive assistant Cathy Vanecek says, “There isn’t anyone that I know of who can be trusted, relied on, depended on more than Martha.” To ATAP administrator Wes Tabler, she is “an exemplary colleague and mentor” and “working with a high performing team, with Martha at the helm, was one of the most satisfying periods of my career.” Diana Attia describes her as “one of a kind {…} the go-to person” who “guided myself and division leadership on many situations. I knew I could rely upon her for anything,” adding, “In addition to all of her skill sets, she was just a pleasure to work with.”

ATAP staff, 1999

ATAP staff in late 1997. Martha is in the front row, second from left. (Click for larger version.)

The results of Martha’s work and the way she went about it earned the deepest respect of customers and co-workers alike. Barletta recalls that during the crucial period when he was at UCOP and Gough served as Interim Division Director, “with Martha’s support, the division never missed a beat in advancing its broad research and outreach objectives.” He also speaks of how her “outstanding efforts to support the Lab’s mission and strategic goals” were provided in a spirit of cooperation and commitment to excellence.

Gough adds that “Martha’s efforts directly facilitated robust growth” in his Ion Beam Technology Program. When 1997 brought IBT the Spallation Neutron Source Front-End Systems Project, “her steady hand, reliability, and exceptional competence played a key role.” Lauritzen recalls “her steadfast dedication, efficiency and admirable calmness” as “imperative to the success of IBT.”

Thomas Schenkel and Martha Condon

A hidden figure gets a turn in the spotlight at last: Thomas Schenkel congratulates Martha on her 2019 Director’s Award

Ian Pong, Mike Witherell, Martha Condon, Asmita Patel

(l-r) Fellow honoree Ian Pong, Lab Director Mike Witherell, Martha, and ATAP Deputy Division Director for Operations Asmita Patel at the awards ceremony









“Her type of contribution to the science done at Berkeley Lab is not often recognized, ” adds Byrd, citing among the examples her help in navigating a difficult contract for a specialty fabrication. Byrd, now a division director at Argonne, worked with her throughout his 26 years here and describes her as “a treasure” who used “‘superpowers’ to solve particularly difficult problems.”

Andre Anders, longtime leader of IBT’s Plasma Applications Group and now Director and CEO of the Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering, recalls the many times when he walked out of her office “knowing that the next steps are clear and solutions are on their way.”

Patel adds, “ Martha is an incredible person, we in the ATAP Operation team will continue to adopt her trademark cool, calm, and collected way of getting things done. Martha’s contributions and friendship will be greatly missed and I am going to miss her very much.”

78 attendees at virtual retirement party

Nearly 80 friends from across a long career attended a virtual retirement celebration on Zoom