Holiday Letter – 1987

In 1980s by Steve Sliwa

To: Friends & Relatives

From: Tabitha, Nancy & Steve Sliwa

Date: December 1987

Subject: Annual Christmas Newsletter

It has been a very busy year for all of us. Tammi (the name she goes by with her friends) is twelve and is making her way through the eighth grade. This past year she continued her art lessons and went to sailing class. In the latter she became proficient enough to begin racing Flying Juniors (FJ’s). We hope to fix up Nancy’s old FJ this spring so Tammi can continue developing her sailing skills. Tammi is still participating in the Extend Program at school and has been selected to be in the Girls Chorus and on the Math Team. However, most of her time is spent doing homework, socializing with friends (principally via the telephone) and reading. We have noticed a marked improvement in her maturing and taking on responsibility this year and we attribute it at least partially to the new addition to our family.

A golden retriever puppy joined the family in April. It’s AKC name is Tabitha’s Wildflower Honey, or Honey for short. Honey is an important family member at this point. In fact, it seems as if she thinks she is human. She wants company at all times and listens fairly well. She follows Tammi all around and typically sleeps with her on her water bed. Honey has a pretty good command vocabulary. One of our favorites is to shout Tabitha. That translates to: run upstairs, push Tammi’s bedroom door open with your nose, jump on her bed and lick her face. Very useful for waking Tammi when she stayed up late reading the night before.

Nancy’s year at NASA has been challenging and rewarding. In fact, Nancy has had more official travel days than even Steve has had during the past year. It’s principally due to being selected to participate in a number of important advisory groups. Probably the most noteworthy is a task force of the NASA Strategic Planning Committee. Nancy is the Langley representative to this group that attempts to assist NASA senior management in planning the future of the Agency. You may have-read about it in the papers when Sally Ride was the chairman. Nancy is also a member of the Systems Autonomy Intercenter Working Group (which helps orchestrate artificial intelligence research at NASA) and the AIAA Computer Systems Technical Committee, and is chairperson of the local Special Interest Group in Artifical Intelligence (SIGART).

In spite of all the travel and committee work, Nancy has successfully continued her own personal research and development projects. Her research interests in neural nets for planning systems is now being funded and she continues to manage a small group adding advanced capabilities to
the Langley robotics laboratory. Since Nancy did not think she was busy enough she also taught a college credit course on LISP (a computer language useful for artificial intelligence) at Old Dominion University last year. Her travels have helped her line up good deals on seriographs and posters by Patrick Nagel. Although Vie justify them as good investments, they have also added considerably to the decor of the house.

Steve has also had a very busy but fruitful year. The first big piece of news is that SEI has been sold. Actually, the exclusive marketing rights for North America and Great Britain have been sold to two separate concerns. A number of profitable projects still loom on the horizon, but the day-to-day operation has been shut down. For awhile, Steve will be busier than in the recent past, with no staff to handle the administrative details, but over the next 6 months the and time load will be reduced significantly. The company closed fundamentally in the black, which is pretty good for a small business and a software company, in particular. Parting with SEI, metaphorically his 8 year old child, was not easy, but the timing was ideal based upon personal circumstances and market conditions.

At NASA Steve has been pursuing a number of new projects for his division. It was an unusual year as a key area under his supervision was missing some managers for most of the year due to transfers or illness. Recently, the area was reorganized aIld new managers selected to relieve the burden of his doing multiple jobs. The new projects for the most part llave been successful and the researc~b~ in the division has been receiving kudos. It has also been personally rewarding for him as he has received a number of awards and a promotion during this past year. Steve also filled some of his “spare time” by teaching a graduate course in Automatic Flight Controls. As you might imagine based on his academic background, feedback from his students indicates that they worked fairly hard throughout the semester trying to keep up with the various design projects. He reports, however, that he gave out mostly excellent grades.

Next year should provide some new opportunities for our family. If everything works out, Steve will be sponsored by NASA to return to Stanford University as a Sloan Fellow and will spend the academic year earning the equivalent to an Executive MBA. NaI1CY and Tammi will go as well, with Nancy taking a temporary job at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Lots of logistical arrangements will have to be made once all the approvals have been secured. In addition, it looks as if Nancy will take 10 weeks out of the time in California to attend a special program at Simmons College in Boston on a NASA fellowship. The program is aimed at helping women prepare for management responsibilities.

We hope you are happy, in good health, and poised to enjoy the holidays and the new year.

Best Regards,

The Sliwa Family

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