A story from Nina Adelman Stolar
I worked with Pief in the late 70's and throughout the next couple of decades, and found him to be a very approachable leader of the laboratory. I first worked with him to complete paperwork for all visitors from Appendix C countries. This gave me frequent opportunities to stop in, and Pief used these visits to educate me on many aspects of life at the Lab and throughout the world. He truly embodied the open door policy (so often given lip service at most companies these days) – and with him it swung both ways. When he needed something, Pief stepped out of his office and explained his concern to the first person he encountered. Often we would have to do a bit of legwork to find someone who understood and could fulfill his request. His close colleague Bill Kirk often handled these requests, and Bill, too, was always available to hear complaints, concerns, etc. from anyone at the lab.
We had amazing experiences dealing with visitors from the then-USSR and, as relations were opened up, with those from the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well. Of all the Accords established with the PRC, the one in high energy physics was the only one to be fully implemented. This meant MANY delegations of administrators and MANY scientific exchanges - and very many banquets. Each visit involved one banquet hosted by SLAC followed by a reciprocal banquet hosted by the visiting delegation.
Pief often suggested one us should be writing up these experiences as “the Great American Novel.” He was sure there was at least one book in our many activities and events as the course of the world changed around us. He called these events “windows to the world.” He could always look at things from multiple perspectives. Many times he would explain a situation to me from my point of view, contrast that with the view of the State Department, and then counterpoint both with the view from the other government involved. More than just providing the bigger picture, he could succinctly elucidate the complexities of a situation, and yet make very clear what needed to be done next.
Both Pief and Adele enjoyed Halloween trick-or-treats in full regalia, birthday parties with balloons and other simple joys in life. Pief was very observant of details: one Halloween when I dressed as a military pilot he gave me a book to carry. It was calculations on advisable altitudes to be used when dropping nuclear bombs!
Another time, my husband and I took a camping trip to Yosemite with a group of visiting scientists from the PRC. Pief loaned us some vintage camping gear to round out our supplies. We ended up taking a second trip, as other visiting scholars heard about the misadventures of the first group!
Pief was a brilliant man and this included being a tremendous human being. Like anyone, he had his biases and preferences. Unlike others, these did not interfere with his building good relations with individuals and transcending international boundaries.
- Nina Adelman Stolar
SLAC Public Information (Oct. 1978-Mar. 2006)