Blue Hill Observatory Remembers Mish Michaels

Mish Michaels and Blue Hill Observatory: Our Tribute to an Extraordinary Community Leader

Mish Michaels came into our lives over twenty years ago at a time when Blue Hill Observatory was beginning to establish a nonprofit scientific education center focused on weather and climate programming. From that moment on, Mish’s involvement with, and support of, the Observatory never waned. She affectionately called the organization “my little Observatory.”

Our relationship began with Mish as a full-time on-air meteorologist forecasting the weather for metro-Boston and taking courses at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in order to expand her knowledge of STEM education for youth—a subject she was most passionate about. An authentic leader she did not perceive her scientific training at Cornell University would be enough to have an impact in K-12 education. Thus, she furthered her knowledge and ultimately earned a Master’s Degree in Technology from Harvard University—today called the “Technology, Innovation and Education Program.”

Driven to serve the community, Mish rolled up her sleeves getting deeply involved in helping the Observatory to develop high-quality programming with mentoring components to support youth not only to understand science, but also to envision themselves as scientists in the future—just like her.

The Observatory established the “Women In Natural Sciences” (WINS) program with Mish at the helm. Investing her personal time, she led hands-on project-based learning activities outside with girls teaching them to observe and learn from nature. Hundreds of individual middle school girls, many from underserved communities, had one-on-one time with Mish where they benefitted from her scientific expertise and encouragement that science was not just for boys.

As Mish became known as a super-talent among the meteorological and broadcast communities and the public at large, rather than leave the Observatory behind she found more ways to be supportive. She spearheaded a video series on the Observatory’s rich 137-year history and education programs by both funding the project and narrating the content. We will forever cherish the sound of Mish’s voice describing the Observatory’s importance.

Recently, while the Observatory has been undergoing a significant year-long construction project, Mish was instrumental in both funding and developing a state-of-the-art exhibit hall within our soon to be newly renovated building. Touchscreens and storyboards will support the public’s ability to engage with and learn from the Observatory’s scientific assets—made up of historic instruments and inventions, climate data collection and analysis, and global scientific reach.

Mish also brought bold strategic solutions to challenges at the Observatory. The Observatory often struggles to host a high volume of visitors such that youth can spill out of our small classroom. Mish helped the organization to envision a new adjacent building, a separate education center that would provide more opportunity for teaching while helping to preserve the Observatory’s historic landmark building. Today we have the rendering of a new science education center that Mish intended to help spearhead with funding and leadership activities in the community to bring it to fruition in the next five years.

Simply put, Mish was a one-of-a-kind—a walk-the-talk, accessible, brilliant and exciting person to spend time with, to work with, and to learn with. As an organization, it is impossible to effectively thank her for leading and implementing positive social change for all girls and the community while also showcasing the value of the Blue Hill Observatory’s 137-year scientific and educational legacy, which is now her legacy.

We extend our love and deepest sympathy to Mish’s entire family at this difficult time. Thank you for sharing her with us and the community for so many years. All of us at the Blue Hill Observatory & Science Center are committed to ensuring Mish’s extraordinary gifts, magical spirit and community impact are honored now and in the future at her “little Observatory.”

Charles Orloff
Executive Director, Blue Hill Observatory & Science Center

Narration by: Mish Michaels

Mish Michaels: Her Significant Contributions to the Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center

In the mid 1990’s Ken Spengler, Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society, invited Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory’s President, Dr. Minsinger, and Vice President, Charles Orloff, to meet with him for strategic planning for BHO.  He had also invited Mish Michaels to that meeting since she was the present Chair of the Women and Minority Committee for AMS. Mish was a young aspiring on-air weather forecaster at the time who we recall was doing work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. We all immediately recognized that this most engaging young woman had a passion to see students succeed in science – especially young girls. I think she saw potential in collaborating with BHO – a venerable institution looking to start a Science Center for student education while maintaining its important role as a climate station. That day was the start of something significant for all involved.

Mish was to become a true mentor in the Women in Natural Science (WINS) programming which started at the newly opened Blue Hill Observatory Science Center in 1999. WINS was initially funded by the Anna B Stearns Foundation for three years, and their support was extended for another two years due to the program’s success. The Mattel and Reebok Corporations were later funders, and the program was to survive for nearly 20 years serving middle school aged girls and their teachers – many from underserved innercity Boston Schools. Longtime teachers such as Katie Birtwell still communicate with some of their WINS students. In 2002, the American Meteorological Society awarded Blue Hill Observatory its Award for Outstanding Services to Meteorology by a Corporation, in large part due to the success of this programming and in a very real way based on what Mish contributed to WINS.

Having written an article in her Weather Almanac that Blue Hill Observatory “Was Back” after the 1998 renovation and opening of our Science Center, Mish then went about helping to raise funds and writing additional articles about BHO for her Almanac Workshop, and some of the profits supported BHO. At the same time Mish helped produce a whole series of videos, which she narrated – featuring Blue Hill and its programming. This dynamo was working as the cohost with Jim Cantore on “Atmospheres” while doing forecasting at several Boston TV stations during this period.

Mish served on the BHOSC Board for many years contributing in a number of ways including presentations at several of our Southern New England Weather Conferences as well as hosting a memorable “Evening with Jim Cantore” at Granite Hills Golf Links – a fund raiser for BHOSC.

The Board and staff of Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory and Science Center have all considered themselves so fortunate to have worked with Mish over many years having been inspired by her in attaining our shared goal of keeping the Observatory open both as a valuable resource for climate science and research and as an important center for STEM education.

When the Blue Hill Observatory reopens after our current $2.5 million renovation, we deeply regret that Mish will not see the new interactive educational exhibits, which she and her husband Wes had so graciously funded. Those exhibits will, indeed, be a lasting tribute to her commitment to weather, climate, and STEM educational opportunities for all while reflecting her commitment to Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory.  We are all indebted to her passion and vision.

Dr. William E. Minsinger
President Emeritus, Blue Hill Observatory & Science Center