The William Webber Voyager Graduate Fellowships were established in 2015, enabled by a generous gift from William and Barbara Webber. Dr. Webber has been doing research in residence at NMSU for several decades, after his previous retirement from the University of New Hampshire. Much of his work is related to cosmic rays and the heliosphere, and he has been deeply involved in the extended mission of the Voyager spacecraft.
The fund enables the Department to issue significant cash awards to students to help the Department to attract and retain top-quality students. The Department has discretion as to the number and amount of awards.
The Fellowships were established to support the excitement of discovery, for example, as experienced by Dr. Webber as part of his involvement with the NASA Voyager mission. From the funding document:
This fund honors the legacy of the Voyager spacecraft missions. These two spacecraft, launched in 1977, have probed the heliosphere to a distance greater than four times the distance of Pluto, and Voyager 1 is now in interstellar space. The crossing beyond the heliosphere occurred on August 25, 2012, and was monitored in real time by Dr. William Webber and his associate, Tina Villa, at New Mexico State University (NMSU), from data sent by Bryant Heikkila, an NMSU graduate, from the Goddard Space Flight Center. They could actually see the intensities changing, a feeling of discovery much like what was observed in the earlier achievements of Voyager that involved observations of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The crossing and subsequent interstellar data are part of the Voyagers’ legacy that will certainly be recognized as one of the great achievements of mankind. Dr. Webber has been part of Voyager’s science team since before the launch and continued studies at NMSU for over 15 years after his “retirement.” He is grateful for the departmental support given at all levels, and wishes to honor the Department of Astronomy, well respected for the quality of its faculty and graduate students. The goal of this Fund is to recognize the importance of the research efforts of the Department which, like Voyager, is at the boundaries of understanding the Universe in which we live.