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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Yves Ménard
October 01, 2008
Yves Ménard
Tribute to a colleague and a friend

Yves Menard

One of my last memories of Yves was when he told me about his cancer and
what lay ahead for him. He approached the problem in a typical Yves
"matter of fact" fashion and was mostly bothered about the time it would
take away from his family and his work. I was impressed at the value he
put on his home and family and the concern he expressed for them rather
than for himself. It was very difficult to see the change in him a
while later. His smile was still the same but the disease had clearly
taken its toll on his physical strength. I will always remember him as a
large person with the ability to show interest and concern for everyone
no matter what their position or role in life. We have lost a special
person that we can't replace.
Bill Emery

[Two photos of Yves taken during the DRAKE 2006 research cruise] Yves participated in this cruise for a Jason-1 - GPS CalVal project. Yves enjoyed this oceanographic cruise south of Drake Passage enormously, one of the highlights of his oceanographic career.

Rosemary Morrow on behalf of Joel Sudre, Mathilde Faillot, CTOH participants of this cruise with Yves

I have known Yves for 15 years, since I arrived in France on my Post-Doc, and started working here with the oceanography and altimetry community. During the last 4-5 years I worked more closely with him, as he became head of the altimetry group at LEGOS. We worked on projects together, meetings, and we had lunch about 2-3 times per week. For lunch we talked a little bit about work, but mostly about life, family, what we did on the weekends, etc. You all know what a humane man Yves was. Although he was one of the more senior scientists at LEGOS and at CNES, he never imposed his position, he always made an effort so that everyone felt at ease. For the students (and other scientists at LEGOS), he was always approachable, making jokes to put everyone at ease - one of the guys! It was such a delight to work with someone who was so good-natured, optimistic, always looking for solutions rather than for problems.

Yves also had such a unique position at CNES, because he was the link between the technical groups at CNES, and with the research groups in the laboratories (in Toulouse, but also in other labs in France). He communicated so easily with both, and that's extremely rare. More than that, I had never had the opportunity to see Yves play rugby, but he maintained the "esprit" of a rugby man in his working life. For him, the people working on altimetry and oceanography were one team. Each person had their different expertise and position, but his vision was that they work together towards a common goal. And as a team, they move forward further and faster than the individuals alone. Occasionally there might be great ideas, new applications which emerge, carried forward by individuals. But that is made possible by the strong team behind them, and we'd all celebrate - Yves generally organising the fête!

He worked with that concept at all levels, within his small groups at CNES and LEGOS, within the extended community of research labs and private companies in France, and within the international community, especially between France and the US. At the international level, he had a partner of equal vision in Lee Fu. But Yves was like our coach, always encouraging us onwards, optimistic, positive, supportive. It was such a pleasure to work with him.

He was amazing during his last years, when he was sick, and sometimes suffering from his medical treatment. He changed physically of course (with or without hair, or hat!) but he maintained his optimism and support for others. We'd sometimes have meetings, trying to resolve some minor problem, inevitably with some heated exchanges, and Yves would be the one trying to find consensus, and a solution, even though he was ill. And although we often complained about the injustice of his illness, he never did - he was continually looking forward.

I'm not sure how we will function now without our "pillar of support". His legacy is in his example - we will try to move forward, and maintain the everyday gestures of being optimistic, positive, supportive. He did that so naturally. We will miss him so much.

Rosemary Morrow

I first met Yves when he visited Jim Marsh at the Goddard Space Flight Center in the late 1970s after the Seasat mission. I had the pleasure of working with Yves on the TOPEX/Poseidon mission for many years while I was at JPL and the Universities of Texas and Colorado. My memory of Yves is that of a true gentleman and a scholar. He had great insight into the potential of ocean altimetry and as the CNES Project Scientist was always the voice of reason and compromise whenever controversial issues arose among the Science Team. He and Lee-Lueng Fu, the NASA Project Scientist, were the gold standard in management and direction of a Science Team. My wife, Carol, and I always looked forward to the annual Science Team meetings and the opportunity to renew our friendship with Yves. As evidenced by the photos on this site, Yves possessed an enjoyment of life and friendships - and what a great smile he had.

We have lost many of our pioneering colleagues who worked on the Seasat, TOPEX/Poseidon, and Jason missions. It is with great sadness that I remember some of my best friends including Jim Marsh, Dana Thompson, Jim Mitchell, Dave Farless and Ed Christensen. They are now joined by Yves and our lives are further diminished by his loss. However, I take solace in the fact that in spirit they continue to assist and inspire us in our work to understand the complexities of the oceans and their impact on our planet.

George H. Born

I was so surprised to hear that Yves passed away, suddenly for me. It is unfathomable loss for us, especially for satellite altimetry community. Personally, I met him several times at altimetry meetings. Among them is the science session for altimetry in COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) which was held in Warsaw, Poland in summer of 2000. Yves, Lee Fu and I myself took care of it, being asked by the COSPAR organizer. The audience was very small and we all were very disappointed. Even at that time, he smiled gently as saying "that is the life", which comforted us very much. He will be missed by all.
Shiro Imawaki

I would like briefly to give you some additional testimonies about Yves. Indeed, I know Yves from 1978 Seasat to 2008 (JASON2). He joined our lab coming from Ecole d'Igénieurs en Géophysique de Strasbourg (note that this school is not giving courses on oceanography) where the famous French geophysicist, Xavier Le Pichon ("father of plate tectonics"), came from. Yves was immediately involved in altimetry using the GEOS 3 data that we got from DMA in Kerguelen, Rangiroa, and Kourou. When Seasat data became available he was the first to use the colinear tracks in the English Channel. I remember a small meeting in Venice in 1980 during the "Ocean from Space" Colloquium, Yves was showing heights differences for the different collinear tracks. There was no agreement but he made the tidal corrections provided by Christian Le Provost with his model, and the nine tracks became parallel. The accuracy after slope adjustment was less than 40 centimeters. Yves was using all the collinear tracks, especially in the Gulf Stream and the Kuro Shivo areas. It was the subject of his thesis in 1981, which was the first France thesis in satellite oceanography. From there he was hired into my department as CNES engineer and quickly became one of the best in altimetry, both for research and applications.

He was very interested in operational altimetry and spent more than two years in Washington D.C. as a guest at the NOAA laboratory of Robert Cheney using the data of GEOSAT. When he returned to France in 1988 he wanted to do more science, but CNES wanted to have a senior scientist to take care of CAL/VAL design and implementation for the upcoming TOPEX/Poseidon project. He did it very well despite difficulties as far as efforts to deploy an array of instruments in the WILD site of Lampedusa.

Yves was selected as Principal Investigator and member of the Science Working Team of TOPEX/Poseidon where he had important contributions mainly because of his knowledge of all the components of the system. He was the perfect candidate to replace me as Project Scientist of TOPEX/Poseidon when I retired in 1994. He had a very large scope and thus was becoming a leader in many different areas. He had the talent not only to assume responsibilities but to take initiative. He was the deputy of Jerome Benveniste from ESRIN in organizing the large colloquium "15 Years of Progress in Satellite Altimetry" in Venice in 2006. He had the opportunity to participate in a cruise on the PolarStern vessel in the South Atlantic Ocean, and finally, he was elected as director of LEGOS, the laboratory for geophysics and oceanography in Toulouse.

It is time now to tell you that his success is indeed the consequence of exceptional human qualities. The characteristic of Yves that I call "Yves Menard's way of life" is permanent positive attitude towards any event and with any people. For him nothing is impossible. It was not just an intellectual view he was taking. His efforts in avoiding or smoothing over conflict situations, and even his physical appearance, reflected this "way of life".

Yves was a good companion for ordinary life; playing music, interested in all aspects of culture

A life he shared with his wife Felisa and his children David and Diane... a summary of these qualities may be found when looking at his activities as RUGBY PLAYER

Michel Lefebvre

When Michel Lefebvre introduced Yves Menard to me at the 1980 Venice conference (Oceanography from Space), it was a bit like looking in a mirror. Yves and I both sported dark, bushy beards, had backgrounds in engineering and oceanography, worked with space agencies, and were embarking on identical careers in the new field of satellite altimetry. But this was only the beginning of our strangely parallel worlds. The next year, just weeks apart, we each had sons. Daughters would follow a few years later, again at the same time. In 1985, Yves brought Felisa, David, and Diane to live in Maryland for two years. While he and I worked together at NOAA, our sons teamed up in kindergarten, and our daughters taught each other to walk. Thanksgivings evolved into Franco-American celebrations. And so it went through the years -- careers and families inextricably linked. We are deeply saddened by the untimely loss of this gentle giant of a man, but his family and friends can take solace in his enduring legacy of generosity, professional cooperation, and personal courage.

Bob Cheney and Family (Lois, Ryan, and Amanda)

Please find 2 photos (May, 2005) of Yves in Corsica where the calibration site has been developed thanks to his support (financial, technical, scientific and more important friendly). He really loved this place and was there at the early beginning to find the best place for the instruments but also the best place where to eat. CALVAL activities were always one of his priorities and when he told me to replace him as chairman of the CALVAL splinter I could not say no to a man who never say no to me; I will try my best to pursue his quest of insuring the continuity of high precision altimetry.

I miss him a lot.


Many of the younger people associated with Jason-1/2 were not around when the predecessor TOPEX/POSEIDON was put together---essentially as a forced marriage of separate US and French missions. There was a great deal of suspicion and worry on the US side, particularly among the engineers who had no experience working with colleagues from abroad.

Among the handful of French scientists and engineers who made it all work, giving rise to the exceedingly successful T/P and its Jason successors, was Yves. He was patient, understanding, insightful, determined, and almost always cheerful, through meetings, debates, money shortfalls, technical problems, and the need to hand-hold a large population who didn't even speak his language!
The wider community owes Yves Menard a great debt and his legacy will be with us for a long time.

Carl Wunsch

To the family of Yves Menard: I am deeply saddened to hear that Yves has passed away. I have been acquainted with him for about seven years now, and I always looked forward to seeing him once or twice a year at the OST science team meetings. I am an outreach coordinator for the missions here at JPL and although I am not a scientist, Yves always made me feel a very important and integral part of the science team.
He would always greet me with a smile and a hug, and ask about my well being. His genuine concern was evident. Please know that I share your loss and that my thoughts and prayers are with you and his science family.

Annie Richardson

I had the pleasure to sit with Yves during several of the altimeter project dinners and enjoyed greatly his open and warm spirit. He will be sorely missed.

Ted Strub

This is sad news for the altimetry community. Yves was an enthusiastic participant, supporter and organizer and a warm, welcoming team member whose contributions will be remembered by all. My sincere sympathy to his family.

Kathie Kelly

Today is a sad day for the oceanography and satellite altimetry community. We have lost a great leader and friend.

Personally I have been apprehensively afraid of this inevitable news coming as Yves had been seriously ill for the past months. He had fought long and hard against the brain tumor attacking him for over two years. The last time I saw him in April was a vibrant Yves anticipating the launch of OSTM/Jason-2. Regardless of the disease he was in high spirits and full of optimism. I saw him on TV interview expressing his high hopes for the new mission before the launch. But his health deteriorated rapidly in summer. My thoughts and heart have been with Yves and his family for quite some time hoping for the best.

Today is a day for us to remember Yves' long-lasting contributions to our satellite altimetry community over the past 20 years and his rock-solid leadership and service that we had taken for granted for so long. We cannot bring him back but we can work hard towards realizing his dream of sustaining altimetry measurement for the benefits of future generations.

Lee-Lueng Fu

20 October 2008 - We have learned with deep regret the sad news of the death of Yves Menard and express our sincere sympathy to the family and relatives for the great loss they have sustained. His friends and co-workers remember him with respect and admiration and he will be missed by all.

Nicolas Picot

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