The Wichita State University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives has received a large gift of scientific documents and artifacts from accomplished meteorologist Mike Smith.
Smith, founder of WeatherData, Inc., and the retired senior vice president of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, recently received a special lifetime achievement award from the National Weather Association for nearly 50 years of creative and innovative service in the field of meteorology.
It’s that lifetime of work that vastly contributed to the collection he has given to WSU Libraries.
Smith says he donated the collection to WSU because he’s impressed with the direction the university is going.
“The Innovation Campus, the melding of WSU Tech and the traditional university, and the outstanding character of your sports teams … is, to my mind, what a university should be and so many are not,” Smith says. “So, I am hoping that my collection, in a small way, helps to forward your mission of spreading knowledge and science as well as elevating society.”
Specifically, the hope is that the collection will support local institutions in many fields, including aviation, environmental sustainability, law and weather. It will also be useful for students in new sustainability programs on campus.
Jessica Mirasol, curator of Special Collections and University Archives, is overseeing the inventorying and cataloguing process for the donation.
“It’s a pretty big deal for us,” Mirasol said. “We have the Wichita business collections, and this is kind of a different area for us. It’s a local business, but we’ve never done local businesses that had to do with weather before.”
The donation includes items from throughout Smith’s career, including a wealth of historical documents, climate change data, photography and one early-model aircraft weather radar.
Among the documents are court records from Smith’s time as an expert witness for aviation accident investigations.
“With these court cases now, this will fill in even more of the aviation history that we’ve focused on here. It’s kind of a new angle and pretty exciting for us,” Mirasol said.
It will take a while for all of the items to be recorded, photographed and arranged in the collection.
“If anyone is interested, they can come and take a look at it before it’s totally processed. We just don’t know exactly what’s in it yet,” Mirasol said.
The donation hasn’t entirely arrived yet, either. Mirasol expects another shipment of photos and documents in the near future.
Smith is something of a legend in meteorology.
He dedicated himself to meteorology at the age of five when a tornado struck his neighborhood, killing 44 and destroying his kindergarten.
He advanced the science of meteorology through some of the first live broadcast coverage of tornadoes and the invention of color radar. He has spent his career finding better ways of preventing deaths and property loss from tornadoes and other violent storms.
He has received more than 30 U.S. and foreign patents in the fields of weather science, graphic information systems and emergency management. His inventions include the first-ever handheld GPS weather device.
He went on to form the company WeatherData through which he invented numerous technologies for precision storm warning services, including the first ever handheld GPS weather device.
Although he sold WeatherData to the AccuWeather Co. in 2006, he is now the president of MSE Creative Consulting. The company coaches entrepreneurs who wish to establish science-related companies.
“We already knew what he had done was important. The collection he created reflects his accomplishments, and his recent national award just adds even more weight to the collection’s importance,” says Kathy Downes, dean of University Libraries.