UA Journey

Jack Townshend

Jack Townshend smiles during the dedication ceremony for Townshend Point on June 29, 2000. Photo by Eric Engman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The following is a July 14, 2003 news release from the American Running Association By Barbara Baldwin

Jack Townshend Celebrates 60-Year Career in Science

"Life has been full of very fine experiences for me. So much so that I can be considered one of the more fortunate people in the world, rich from an abundance of quality of life," writes Jack Townshend in his biographical story, "Running With Life."

In looking over Townshend's numerous career accomplishments—almost too many to count—one would certainly have to agree with this statement. It appears Tovmshend finds success and personal fullfillment in everything he sets his mind to, and makes a significant impression on everyone he meets along the way.

On July 1, 2003, Townshend completed 60 years in his career of science and public Service and is currently overseeing development of a new magnetic observatory for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Shumagin Islands at Sand Point, Alaska. Upon its completion, the Shumagin Magnetic Observatory will be the fifth scientific observatory Townshend has participated in designing, developing and constructing over his long and exciting career. The other observatories are located at Fredericksburg, Va.; Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., Fuquene, Colombia (near Bogota, South America), and the College International Geophysical Observatory at UAF in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Early Years
Townshend grew up in Brandywine, MD, the 11th of 12 children in the Samuel G. and Laura S. Townshend family. He became interested in the magnetic observatory field while watching his father, a geophysicist, work at the Cheltenham Magnetic Observatory near Washington, D.C. After his father retired in 1946, Townshend convinced the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey (USC&GS) to allow him to fill the position with only a high school diploma under his belt. He started on a three-month trial period with the agreement that he would work toward a college degree. Although Townshend never received that degree, he stayed with the survey service, and after 17 years in the D.C. area, he was appointed chief of the USC&GS College Observatory (CO) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in April 1963.

The Visionary
For more than 33 years, Townshend served as chief of the College Observatory at UAF under several federal agencies: the USC&GS, Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

In June 1996, one of Townshend's visions became reality when the new College International Geophysical Observatory (CIGO) was completed and dedicated. For 10 years leading up to that day, Townshend had nurtured the idea of creating such a facility and oversaw its eventual development. He served for more than six years as chief of the CIGO until October 2002 when the CIGO was transferred from the USGS to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Since that time, Townshend has served as principal consultant to the UAF Geophysical Institute for the operation of the CIGO. In October 2002, Townshend was appointed, "Special Projects Coordinator" for the USGS Geomagnetism Program while continuing to maintain his office at UAF.

The Public Servant
Townshend has also played an active role in local, state, and national educational activities. He served on the Alaska State Board of Education and on the board of directors of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

Townshend has also worked with Kiwanis Clubs, the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, the Explorers Club, churches and many other groups. Over the years, his involvement in the community and dedication to science has brought him numerous awards and honors at the local, state, national, and international level.

President Clinton commended Townshend's hard work, dedication, and skill in a 1994 letter. "Your efforts with the state and University of Alaska in joint geophysical observation programs are exemplary," declared Clinton. In 1993, the Alaska State Legislature also recognized Townshend's lifetime achievements and contributions. "We salute you," read the certificate. "Your can-do attitude propelled you into the status of role model, teacher, and mentor. We thank you for your service to Alaska." Other noteworthy honors have included an invitation to speak on "A Simple Philosophy for Achieving a Vision," at the 1994 International Explorers Conference in Oslo, Norway, and an award presented by the International Association of'Geomagnetism and Aeronomy for "long term contributions to the international community" at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England.

In May 1995, Townshend received an honorary Doctor of Science Degree awarded by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. for "his distinguished and unwavering service to the scientific community and the University, and for his optimistic devotion to the Fairbanks community." And just a few months earlier, in March 1995, he was honored with the Explorers Club's Edward C. Sweeney Medal for "his distinguished work in science and exploration and service to the organization."

In June 1999, the University of Alaska Fairbanks honored Townshend by dedicating a new permanent landmark on the university campus. The "Townshend Point" recognizes his unshakable support of the school, science, and public service.

The Runner
At age 76, Townshend still makes running an important part of his life. In 1982. after weighing in at 200 pounds, he decided it was time to take charge of his health, so he changed his nutritional habits and began walking. A short time thereafter, he began to feel much better, lost 50 pounds, and quickened his pace to running. Townshend now runs 10-15 miles a week throughout the year, even at temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. "I often run to meetings, to a restaurant, to the homes of friends or family, and I once ran to a funeral of a friend because I thought he would appreciate it," says Townshend. He has also run in 70 major cities around the world, which Townshend says has enabled him to learn and understand more about each city's history.

"Every moment of life holds the potential for positive change and you are free to plan and aspire to whatever you can visualize yourself fulfilling, be it running or some other activity of your choice," declares Townshend when commenting on his success. "When you have the will, you can accomplish anything within reason." Townshend has also enjoyed other exercises like stretching, cross-country skiing and bicycling with his wife, Frieda. He has a formula that he encourage others to remember. It is "C + B = A." C is for conceive, B is for believe, and A is for achieve. "Anything can be achieved when a person has the will to truly believe in it, given that it is in harmony with the constructive Law(s) of the Universe, and is disciplined to practice it," says Townshend.

Among Townshend's many running accomplishments is finishing first many times in his age group when running the Equinox Marathon. The marathon has a cumulative vertical climb of over 4,500 feet, and is often referred to as the second-toughest marathon in the U.S. He has run the Equinox Marathon 17 times and was the only person over 70 to get through the brutal course in 2000 and 2001. Townshend has run the New York City Marathon three times and one year in near freezing temperatures with winds at 30-60 mph and a chill factor near zero. "It was one of the toughest marathons I've run," says Townshend. "Before the race, most of us stood in line for more than three hours at the porto-johns simply because they were the only place to escape the cold and dampness to get warm."

In 2001 and 2002 at age 74-75, Townshend, also placed number one in the over 70 age group for the interior Alaska Williams Running Cup Series Championship, which he proudly calls a "major accomplishment." The event consists of participating in and accumulating points for a series of seven races ranging from a One-Mile track all the way to a 26.2-mile Equinox Marathon. Results are then used to determine the top overall and age group runners in the Interior. At age 76 he still runs a mile in eight minutes.

The Philosopher
In addition to his other activities, Townshend has taken a keen interest in philosophy, and considers himself amateur philosopher. Serendipity, which can be defined as the art of finding valuable or agreeable things you do not actively seek, is the cornerstone of his philosophy of life. Fellow philosopher and author. Marcus Bach, in his book, The World of Serendipity, which was dedicated to Townshend, explored this concept. "I believe our journey through life would be more productive, meaningful, and enjoyable if we were more aware of serendipity and serendipitous experiences," commented Townshend in his speech at the International Explorers Conference in Norway.

It is easy to say that Townshend's life, full of great success and happiness, has paralleled his philosophy. "Regardless of where you are in life, you can always work to achieve your potential and make life meaningful," exclaims Townshend. Make the journey and not the destination the success in your life. And always try to find the balance between the spiritual, mental, and physical values, remembering, "yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery; today, the present moment is a precious gift, cherish it, use it wisely, enjoy it and share it with others."

UA Site named after Jack Townshend

Townshend Point