Executive Director Doug Simons Departs CFHT for

University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy Directorship    

CFHT’s Executive Director Dr. Doug Simons announced his departure from CFHT to lead the University of Hawai'iʻs Institute for Astronomy (IfA) starting September 1, 2021.

“The heart of CFHT is its staff and it’s been my privilege to lead them for the past nine years,” says Simons.  “Their dedication, ingenuity and determination make CFHT a world class facility and I have simply tried to provide them with the resources and a framework to help them succeed.”

Simons started his tenure as CFHT’s Executive Director in May 2012.  Over the past decade under Simons’ leadership, CFHT launched the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer project office, undertook the installation of dome vents improving image quality, completed new and challenging large programs and took the delivery of two new instruments, SPIRou and SITELLE.  Simons oversaw major failures of the dome shutter and hydraulics systems as well as navigated CFHT through the Thirty Meter Telescope protests and COVID-19 pandemic, both of which shuttered CFHT for a time.

“Doug’s time at CFHT was marked by unprecedented challenges and successes, but under his leadership CFHT continued to enable outstanding research, consistently ranking among the most scientifically productive observatories in the world,” said Dr. Howard Yee, University of Toronto astronomer and chair of the CFHT Board of Directors.  “I look forward to continued collaboration with Doug as he transitions to the Institute for Astronomy, one of CFHT’s partner institutions.”

During Simons’ tenure at CFHT expanded its community engagement efforts, adding the Maunakea Scholars program, the first statewide astronomy outreach initiative, providing observing time on the Maunakea Observatories to Hawaii public high school students.  He was one of the originators of the EnVision Maunakea program, an effort to create a compelling account of the community’s vision for Maunakea.  Working with 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, the University of Hawai'i at Hilo’s Ka Haka 'Ula O Ke'elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language and community partners, he helped established the A Hua He Inoa program melding astronomical discoveries with traditional Hawaiian naming practices.  

The CFHT Board of Directors will work with Simons on transition plans over the next few months. Announcements regarding the selection of an interim director and plans to recruit a new CFHT Executive Director will occur soon to keep the CFHT user community up-to-date.

As IfA Director, Simons plans to further strengthen the relationship between IfA and the community. Building on his work with Maunakea Scholars, he will place an emphasis on underrepresented students participating in the University of Hawai‘iʻs extensive astronomy program.

“When I applied to graduate school decades ago, IfA was the only institution that accepted me.  At the time, I had no idea moving to Hawai'i would change my life and help me discover my life’s work, Hawai'i astronomy,” says Simons.  “Finishing my career where it began, where I received a fabulous education, brings me full circle and I look forward to helping ensure a continued bright future for IfA.”

Media Contact
Mary Beth Laychak
Canada-France-Hawai'i Telescope