AVS Historical Persons | Vivienne Harwood Mattox - 1994

Vivienne Harwood Mattox - 1994

Oral History Interview with Vivienne Harwood Mattox

Interviewed by Len Beavis, October 24th, 1994
LB: This morning we are going to interview Vivienne Harwood Mattox, who has been involved in the American Vacuum Society for many, many years. Today is October 24th, 1994. Vivienne - you were in charge of, and responsible for, most of the early development of the short-course program of the American Vacuum Society. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about when you became involved in vacuum education. 

VMattox.jpgVHM: Well, I first became involved in vacuum education in 1963 in England, where I was an Assistant Lecturer in Physics at the Bristol College of Science and Technology. The head of department had purchased a bunch of vacuum equipment and asked me to develop a laboratory for teaching gas flow and pressure measurement at low pressure. I first attended a course at Edwards High Vacuum. Then I set up the laboratory that demonstrated different aspects of vacuum technology. With the assistance of the lecturer from Edwards, I then presented the first short course in England, I believe, that was given by a college for those working in industry. And then after moving to Canada, where I was an Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Alberta, I had another head of department who said he'd spent $50,000 on vacuum equipment. He asked me to set up a laboratory for teaching a graduate course in vacuum science and technology, and also for teaching the technical staff how to build the equipment that the graduate students were going to use in their research. That was a little scary because I'm sure that I was given this job because the Department Head thought I had all kinds of experience. Fortunately I had a year to prepare to present the course. I attended my first AVS Symposium in New York City in 1964. Then I went to a course at Varian Associates in Palo Alto the following spring in 1965. From then on my interactions with AVS members were very, very helpful in developing that first course.

LB: Apparently your involvement with the American Vacuum Society really came through this educational activity that you were involved with. So you got involved with AVS education activities sometime in the 1960s. I wonder if you could describe a little bit about all of the things that took place after that. 

VHM: In the fall of 1965 I was teaching the graduate course at the University of Alberta and it became known to people in the Society that I was doing that. Paul Brown, I believe it was, invited me to join the Education Committee. John Dillon became the next Chairman of the Education Committee, following Paul. After I joined the committee I was anxious to learn what they were doing. At the meetings we were discussing the different people who were presenting classes. I explained how I had to struggle to develop some teaching materials for the teaching laboratory that I had established in Canada. I pointed out how helpful it would have been had there been some book or literature that could have helped me to develop my teaching laboratory. I suggested to the committee that we develop some information and collect ideas for experiments for teaching the subject. It was decided that the entire education committee and the Society would be asked to contribute their ideas. The AVS Education Committee published this book, Experimental Vacuum Science and Technology. I coordinated and edited all the contributed material. It was reviewed, as you know, by yourself and many other people on the committee. That was really my first project with the Education Committee.

LB: I know I first met you in 1966 at an Education Committee meeting. It was really before my involvement in the organization. It was sometime after that the short courses themselves became developed in terms of the American Vacuum Society. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how that started, seeing you were involved at the very beginning in starting all that. 

VHM: The first course that was ever presented at the AVS National Symposium was in 1968 in Pittsburgh. John Kurtz from IBM had approached the Instrument Society of America (ISA) with a proposal that he teach a short course for them on vacuum technology. ISA then approached AVS, since the AVS National Symposium was in Pittsburgh that year, to see if AVS was interested in having this course presented. They explained that John Kurtz who was willing to teach a course had approached them. The AVS Board of Directors decided that provided the Education Committee was comfortable with the quality of the course, and as long as it was done in coordination with the Education Committee, that this could happen. That first course was very successful. It was followed the next year at the AVS National Symposium in Seattle in 1969, using a different instructor - I think Gene Culver from Oregon Technical Institute. That year some organizational problems arose since it was no longer a local affair for ISA, which was headquartered in Pittsburgh. The course was very well attended. The following year, in 1970, I was asked if I would be the local contact person for this course, since the AVS Symposium was going to be held in Washington, D.C., and I was moving from Canada to live there. We were aware of the fact that there had been organizational issues in Seattle that we would like to see changed. And so I basically told John Dillon that I would be very happy to be involved with organizing the course - but that I thought AVS should go alone. In fact I said that I would only be involved if AVS did it alone. I said that we could do a really good job if we did it alone – without the association with ISA. He said, "How could you possibly do that? You don't have this huge staff of people that ISA has." And I said, "Well, Don Novotny at the National Bureau of Standards and his secretary and I can handle it - we can do it." And he said, "Okay, we'll let you do it." And that's how we got started. It was exciting. We had 100 people in total attend the courses. We offered two courses at two different levels - an introductory, novice-level course and a more advanced course. Norman Milleron presented both of the courses. We had a total of 100 registrants - 50 in each of the two courses. 

LB: Who were involved in these early years? Do you remember the players? 

VHM: Yes, I do. In the early courses on vacuum technology, there was Norm Wilson, Bill Brunner, Howard Patton, yourself, and Norm Milleron. These are the ones who immediately come to mind. I'm sure there were others. 

LB: As I recall, even in the early years, there was a lot of discussion about the idea that there more than just general vacuum technology that we ought to be dealing with. And as I recall you were sort of instrumental in pushing the walls of the system and we began to develop some of these other specialized courses. Do you recall how that all happened and took place? 

VHM: Yes, actually, that happened a few years later. In the 1971-1972 years, the Education Committee still handled the registration until we went to New York when Nancy Hammond handled the registrations. Then we felt we could expand the program. I think it was at that point - 1973. 

LB: And that was Nancy Hammond? 

VHM: Yes. Nancy Hammond, at the New York office. 

LB: The Secretary of the AVS. 

VHM: Yes. Nancy was the Secretary of the AVS. She took over handling the registrations. I think at that point we felt that we were able to expand the size of the program, and the early specialized courses were developed. In looking at my notes, the early specialized courses were that Len Beavis gave one on partial pressure analysis, Al Czanderna gave some courses on surface analysis, and Don Mattox gave the first sputtering short course. From then on the program grew. 

LB: There were a lot of other things that have, of course over the years, tended to evolve out of that program. Can you sort of relate to some of those things that took place? 

VHM: I think as a result of the development of the courses, the instructors started putting a lot of time into preparing their course materials. The quality of the materials improved to the point that it was felt that stand-alone publications could be produced. There were many requests from people who wanted to buy the short-course notes. Of course, they had not been reviewed. The kind of material that you'd present in a short course would not be stand-alone material. They are usually copies of Viewgraphs with a few written notes. They were not in a book format. So we didn't want to sell the course materials. However several instructors were willing to develop their course materials into stand-alone monographs. That was the beginning of the monograph project, which is now quite extensive. I haven't kept up with exactly how many you have now, but that was one of the major projects that I was involved in as it started. The other project that the Education Committee was involved with was our videotape program - the AVS videotape program. I think it was Bill Brunner and Howard Patton at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories who convinced the lab to use their extensive videotaping facilities to allow some courses to be videotaped in front of a live audience. It would be of service to the lab and also to the vacuum community. AVS would have use of the tapes in order to rent or sell them, in any way they wished. So that was another project that grew out of the short course program. 

LB: The issue of the notes and whether people can buy them is still a major issue, as I found out here a couple of days ago. How you deal with that still hasn't been resolved. I guess expanding the monographs is one way to handle that, and maybe that is what will happen. I can remember when I was President - I guess it was 1978 - that you were given the special award for all of your activity involved in developing these courses and notes and everything else that went with it. Can you review some of the major things that were part of that award? 

VHM: I like to think of the fact that everything I did was a team effort. The Education Committee - we worked well as a team, but I had a little more time than other people to devote to it. I probably spent about 25% of my year on a volunteer basis during 1977 and 1978. Because I was working outside of my professional field of training at that time, it was my way of giving something back to my field of training. 

LB: And keeping "with it!" 

VHM: And keeping with it, too - exactly. So after being the Chair of the Education Committee, I believe that was from 1973 to 1976, I then went back to being a committee member, and devoted a tremendous amount of time to developing the program and it grew greatly in those two years, 1977 and 1978. That was because primarily I increased the marketing efforts, the amount of publicity of the courses, and also as a committee we developed and expanded the number of courses offered. I believe it was in 1978 we started to give our first "off-site courses," and the spring programs at different AVS Chapters around the country. I think the tremendous growth in the program was being recognized. The Board of Directors gave me that award and I was very honored. 

LB: Yes. I'm sure the program growth was recognized. Even today, of course, that growth continues. They're still having all these issues about how far can we let it go before the dog begins to get wagged by the tail. We're still faced with some of those problems. What were some of the major turning points in the management of the short-course program? I remember we've had meetings about how we should reorganize this thing, get the education committee out of it a little bit. Maybe you can relate some of that. 

VHM: There was a turning point at your cabin in the mountains near Taos, as I recall. Yes, as the program continued to expand from 1977 through 1983, the AVS Short Course Program was bringing in 25% of the AVS budget – about $500,000. There were concerns that the work was primarily being done by myself as a volunteer.  However I should say that in 1981 when Marion Churchill was hired as a Meetings Manager, more and more of the routine responsibilities were being transferred to Marion. For instance, the printing of the course materials, some of the marketing efforts, the production of the brochures, and that kind of thing were being transferred to Marion at the AVS New York office. By 1983 it was felt that a Short Course Executive Committee should be formed - a group of people who would be responsible for managing the program, rather than primarily just one person who was a volunteer and Marion in the New York office. And actually Frank Ura chaired that first Short Course Executive Committee. Other members of the committee were Paul Holloway, who was responsible for the technical liaison to create and develop new courses in conjunction with the interests of the AVS Divisions. I took on the role of marketing the program, which I'd been doing previously. Don Mattox was the committee member/Board member responsible for policy interactions with the Board and with the Chapters. Marian Churchill was on the committee as the AVS Meetings Manager. That was the first Short-Course Executive Committee. I believe that structure has essentially remained in place since 1984. 

LB: And they're still looking for volunteers to fill up all of the roles, and make sure that the program runs smoothly. In other words - to do all the things that you did all by yourself. They do not have enough people to run it now, I guess! You alluded a little bit to the impact of the short course program financially on the AVS budget. I know I recall when I went to the AVS Board the first time and said, "All of a sudden your budget for the Education Committee is not going to be $3,000 per year, it's going to be $8,000." I expected them to jump all over me. And they said, "Go ahead." There was some reasonable expectation that we would make a profit. And as I recall, the first year we made $10,000 or $11,000 profit. Since then it's grown. I'm sure you have a much better perspective, because I only saw the first year. After that you had the responsibility of the Committee and it has continued to grow, I'm sure. 

VHM: Yes, I think that the Short Course Program budget is still probably approximately the same percentage of the total budget. I was reading Jack Singleton's article that he published last year. It was a very interesting article; it actually covers the growth of the short courses. It's called "The American Vacuum Society at 40." In that article he indicated that in 1984 we had 542 bodies attending the short courses. Now, you have to realize that one "body" may take two or three different courses. I believe the numbers in 1992 were 405, but I think that's because many more of those people were probably taking a wider range of courses. But also, I really want to bring up the fact that the chapter activity has grown enormously since 1980. Many of the chapter course programs are in fact sometimes larger than the national program  -  for example the Northern California AVS Chapter program. So you've had a tremendous growth in short-course income, but it has not all been at the national level. I think that the Chapter programs have probably had a significant impact on the national courses. That's just my opinion. Also, the program has changed. I am really addressing my perspectives now of the program since I haven't been involved with it for 10 years - but I'd say that the type of courses has changed. AVS seems to present many more specialized courses now - which is interesting. 

LB: Presumably filling a need. 

VHM: Yes, definitely. 

LB: In fact, the numbers I saw the other day, there was something on the order of 850 people attending courses at a national meeting. 

VHM: Wow. Incredible. 

LB: In California this year it was on the order of 600. They claim that the last couple of years it has grown immensely. So you were talking about 1992.  

VHM: Yes, I was just going by what was in this book. I was surprised, actually. But I think the economy has turned around. And that has probably been a big factor. 

LB: You have been out of our AVS short-course program really in terms of managing it for the past 10 years. Maybe you can take a look back now and sort of put things in perspective and where you see things going in the future. Also what does the educational program look like, from your perspective now. 

VHM: I think that there is a constant demand for these courses in vacuum education. There is a huge turnover, as we all know, in companies. Companies are still desperately looking for people with training in this technology. In other words, they need people trained in vacuum technology and related subjects. I think there will always continue to be a demand for the short courses in vacuum technology and all the other specialized topics that are currently being offered. I think that the AVS has offered a great service to the vacuum community in general by offering these courses. I'm just very proud to have been associated with starting the program from its very beginnings. And I wish you all the very best with the way it progresses. 

LB: We, of course, see you at the national meetings. I see you more often than that, actually, in New Mexico. But what do you see as your role in the future? Is there a role at the moment, from your perspective? 

VHM: Within AVS? 

LB: Yes, within AVS? 

VHM: I would be very happy to assist in any way that I am asked. I come to these meetings every year - I haven't missed a meeting since 1964, incidentally. I did want to mention that. So I'm always here. However I am involved with managing two other professional organizations, so I do have a very busy life. 

LB: Vacuum related associations? 

VHM: Vacuum related. Yes. The Society of Vacuum Coaters - I am the Executive Director for SVC, and I am also the Executive Secretary for the Association of Vacuum Equipment Manufacturers. There is a tremendous synergism between these two organizations and with the AVS. It's just great to be able to come back to AVS and have something that I'm doing that is very involved with what you are doing. I am very happy to be here. 

LB: We certainly are glad that you have remained active in the field and continue to push along education in vacuum technology and science the way you have. We certainly thank you for taking the time today to sit down and talk to us. We look forward to many more years of association. 

VHM: Thank you. I was very honored to have been asked to come here today.

return to top