#SoCaltech: Michelle Vine

“I remember the time when Hans Bethe [winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics] was doing a series of articles on nuclear disarmament for the L.A. Times, and I was transcribing his tapes. I’d been out sick for two days, so I thought I’d stay late to catch up. Dr. Bethe [who visited campus almost every year as a Sherman Fairchild Scholar] was on his way out of Kellogg Lab. His shoes squeaked, so you always knew when he was coming. He stopped by my office and said, as he always did, ‘Good evening, Miss Vine,’ and then he turned and came back and said, ‘Why are you still here?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I'm just transcribing some of your tapes because I fell behind. I have nothing to do tonight, and I find them interesting.’ This was a slice of history I was getting to transcribe! He said, ‘Well, do you have any questions?’ I'm thinking, ‘Yeah, I've got a lot of questions,’ but I said, ‘I have a few.’ And he said, ‘Well, how about I sit down, and you can ask me what you want?’ I was so excited; I felt like a little kid at Christmas. This man was one of the most brilliant minds in the world, and I was a secretary, 20-something years old, and I knew nothing about nuclear physics or disarmament. I was curious about why he felt so strongly about nuclear arms control, given his work on the atomic bomb. He sat down and gave me 45 minutes of his undivided attention. How many people can say that?”

Michelle Vine is the administrative assistant for mathematics in the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. Since she joined Caltech in 1979,Michelle has held various positions at the Institute, including faculty affairs coordinator for PMA, division chair assistant to three chairs, and assistant (for almost 30 years) to Caltech physics professor Tom Tombrello. She is being honored for her 40 years of service to the Institute at the 64th annual Staff Service & Impact Awards ceremony on May 30. 

#SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to magazine@caltech.edu.