In Memoriam: Jaclyn Allen, 1950–2023

Planetary science education recently lost a pioneer and one of our finest members. Jaclyn (Jackie) Allen passed away peacefully on May 4, 2023, held close by her family.

In 1991, Jackie Allen and her husband, planetary geologist Dr. Carl Allen, came to NASA Johnson Space Center to pursue planetary research and science education, where they both remained until retiring in 2015. Jackie was a force of nature! A geologist, planetary scientist, educator, wife, partner, mother, grandmother, and mentor, Jackie was also a dear friend to so many in the planetary community. In addition to designing activities, conducting workshops, and creating curriculum, Jackie excelled at bringing people together: scientists, educators, Girl Scouts, and students. She was an inspiration to so many in planetary science.

Jackie built platforms where others grew and contributed and realized potential—she is a master educator. When she stepped in as a volunteer to assist Dr. Marilyn Lindstrom develop education materials to accompany the newly minted meteorite discs, a marvelous, productive, and far-reaching journey began for many of us. Jackie saw the need for scientists and classroom educators to work as colleagues, as a continuing team, to develop meaningful and useful science education. With her direction, the JSC-ARES writing teams wrote Exploring Meteorite Mysteries!, Fingerprints of Life?, Destination Mars!, and elementary soil activities.

Her talents for bringing people together and creating good science education were shared in Mars Exploration Education, Discovery Mission Education, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and NASA Science Mission Directorate.

In 2002, Jackie’s passions for science, education, and Girl Scouts came together as the planetary science education group looked for ways to reach new audiences through informal education. Funded by NASA, Girls Scouts USA chose and sent twenty-five volunteer master Girl Scout trainers to Macy Conference Center for a five-day workshop, Exploring the Solar System. This was the beginning of a 20-plus-year relationship that continues today.

She had the gift of seeing potential and believing in people. And we had no choice but to believe in her and strive. May we all use our gifts and talents so well to lift up others.

My fondest memory of Jackie is her standing on the lava flows of Hilo, circled by Girl Scouts, leaders, GS Master trainers, NASA collaborators, Carl, and me, sharing her favorite science—volcanoes.

— Kay Tobola, Former JSC ARES Education Specialist

Jackie Allen will always be remembered as a kind, passionate, smart, inspirational, fun-loving, amazing wife, mother, and colleague, and generous person. Those she worked with within ARES at NASA Johnson, as well as those within NASA’s science engagement community who knew her, had so much love and respect for her. She had a powerful, yet gentle and impactful spirit. She worked tirelessly to bring the excitement of science into the lives of all she met. It was an honor and a privilege for all of us to not only have worked with Jackie, but to consider her a friend and mentor. Her presence will never be forgotten as her legacy in programs, activities, and friendships she has built throughout her lifetime will live on forever.

— Paige Graff, Kim Willis, Suzanne Foxworth, and Susan Runco, JSC ARES

We know Jackie through her boundless energy and creativity inspiring love of science. She wasn’t just a science nerd, she also tirelessly and enthusiastically gave of herself helping others—providing a haven for homeless families, delivering meals on wheels, observing good stewardship of our planet, and speaking up to encourage respect for each other. She had courage.

— Judy Allton, JSC ARES

Jackie Allen was one of my first mentors in the field of planetary science education. Shortly after starting at the LPI, Jackie and Kay invited me to join them in facilitating a workshop for partnerships between NASA and Girl Scout Council educators. My first Girl Scout experience in Houston was working with Jackie to conduct astronomy activities during a Carousel north of Houston. We gave a variety of workshops together. Over the years, her advice has been invaluable; I owe so much to her insights, cherished her friendship, and have been profoundly influenced by her example.

— Christine Shupla, USRA/Lunar and Planetary Institute

To read Jackie Allen’s obituary, visit the Albuquerque Journal.