Farewell with overtime
On 30 June 2011, the European XFEL GmbH said farewell to its administrative director Karl Witte at a reception in the DESY auditorium—at least formally. Until the search for his successor has been definitely concluded, Karl Witte remains on duty.
The European XFEL has many architects—Karl Witte is one of them. The man known for his impressive moustache was in charge of constructing the legal texts that rule the project, including founding documents like the international convention governing the construction and operation of the European X-ray laser facility. Since the foundation of the European XFEL GmbH in autumn 2010, Karl Witte has been responsible for administrative matters as one of its two managing directors.
Though this was not always an easy job, Karl Witte is known for his calm and warm nature. Colleagues admire his knowledge and familiarity with details. In June 2011, Karl Witte turned 67—time for retirement and a good opportunity to express gratitude for his commitment at a reception in the DESY auditorium. This chance was seized by the speakers Massimo Altarelli (chairman of the European XFEL Management Board), Robert K. Feidenhans'l (chairman of the European XFEL Council), Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research), and Helmut Dosch (chairman of the DESY Board of Directors).
Massimo Altarelli thanked him for the fruitful, close and loyal collaboration: “Karl Witte brought rigour, precision and reliability to the legal and administrative construction of two major international research institutions, the ESRF in Grenoble and the European XFEL, with uncompromising enthusiasm for the scientific and European value of such enterprises, and without ever raising his voice”.
When Karl Witte joined the European XFEL project in 2006, he returned to his roots. He was born in Bevensen, Northern Germany, in 1944, studied physics at the University of Hamburg, and got hired at the department of physics of the same university in 1969. In the late 1980s, he moved to Grenoble, France, where he took on the job as assistant to the director general of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), which was being founded at the time. There he became an expert on legal and administrative aspects of international scientific projects. For 19 years, he and his family lived in France. In 2005, Massimo Altarelli asked Karl Witte to join the European XFEL project team as the person responsible for administrative and financial affairs.
Theoretically, the time has now come for a phase shift in Karl Witte’s life—retirement. But this step had to be postponed, because the search for a successor has not yet been definitely concluded. The European XFEL Council therefore asked him to remain on duty for a few more months. It was easy to guess his answer, as Karl Witte is known for working overtime.