09 February 2017

In Memory of Agneta (Silfver) Newton

IIASA was saddened by the news of Agneta (Silfver) Newton's death on 2 February 2017. Below alumna Ruth Steiner pays tribute to Silfver's memory with personal reflections following from Roger and Carla Levien, Monica de Janosi, and Sebouh Baghdoyan. 

Silfver Newton, 1920-2017

Silfver was one of the very first employees at IIASA, joining the institute in January 1973. Before the renovation of the Schloss in Laxenburg was completed, IIASA had a temporary office in Vienna on Traungasse. From this location Silfver started to furnish the Schloss. As a Procurement Officer, she began to purchase all of the items that an institution needs to start with, for example: paper, staples, typewriters and all kinds of furniture. Furnishing a castle that was still under renovation was not an easy endeavor. Silfver handled it very professionally, with exceptional good taste and cost effectively.

The first director of IIASA, Howard Raiffa, had a philosophy that a scientist and his family be settled down in Vienna as quickly as possible. In order to achieve this, Silfver was appointed Head of Staff and Family Services in 1976 (till 1986). This involved apartment recommendations, purchasing of furniture, car, as well as schooling for the children, etc. Her warmheartedness and ability to make everyone feel at home helped many to integrate. Her talent in organizing social activities meant a lot to many scientists – the skiing trips were the real hits and many stories were told years later. Another important role was organizing activities for the spouses of the scientists – German classes, museum visits, excursions, international dinners, etc.

The last two years at IIASA 1986-1988, she worked for the Conference and Visitor Services, where she assisted visitors during their stay at IIASA. Having worked closely together with Silfver for 10 years, I really appreciated her as a colleague and friend.

We are all grateful for our friendship with Silfver and her dedication and assistance to IIASA.

Ruth Steiner
Head of Personnel Department, 1973-1983

From Left: Ruth Steiner, John Fowler, Silfver Newton, Gus Hammerl, Mark Thompson, Peter Popper, Julyan Watts, Angelika Loskott

Silfver Newton played a key role in the first decade of IIASA's existence. As head of Staff and Family Services, Silfver helped researchers' families from East and West adjust to life in Austria and become part of the growing IIASA family.  

In addition to helping with housing, driver's licenses, and other necessities of life, once a month during the winter Silfver led a boisterous group of researchers and their families on trips to ski resorts across Austria, leaving us with delightful memories of ski chalets, slopes, schnaps, and saunas. On other occasions she escorted the adventurous among us to Venice.  

Some of the images of Silfver that stand out in our memories: 

  • her blond curls, a comforting guide for beginners on an icy ski slope,
  • her soft laughter at the antics of frolicking children,
  • her steady thoughtfulness when helping us and others adjust to new lives in Austria,
  • her ready wit and clear understanding when dealing with minor crises,
  • her deep connection to family and her Scandinavian roots,
  • the crispness of her suggestions,
  • the elegance and lovely descriptions in her prose.

Hers was a full life, wisely lived. She enriched our IIASA experience and we, together with the many others she touched, will always be grateful for her enduring friendship. 

Roger and Carla Levien
IIASA Director, 1975-1981

Roger and Carla Levien with Silfver on Kärntner Straße in 2011

Silfver Newton was a formidable and positive influence in the lives of all 4 of the de Janosis from our first few days in 1977 until the last few years. Her boundless energy and inimitable skill of "herding" her flock of heterogeneous families into wonderful socializing activities which endeared her to all of us. We have so many happy memories from those early days of IIASA, thanks to this warm and generous lady. 

I am greatly saddened to lose such a dear friend,

Monica de Janosi 
Wife of Peter E. de Jánosi†, IIASA Director, 1990-1996

As the very active and dynamic Head of IIASA’s Staff and Family Services (Also better known by most of the older IIASAites as The Grande Dame of IIASA’s Social Events), our beloved Silfver was the best, warmhearted, pleasant, sacrificing, trouble shooting, tireless and devoted welcoming colleague to all of the Institute’s newcomers, as well as their family members (and even their pets). She faced everyone and everything with her unforgettably kind and encouraging smile. Every year on 13 December, she was the Leading bearer of the Light in white gowns in celebrating the traditional and mythical Saint Lucia Day in the corridors of IIASA’s centuries old castle. She is one of the respectable and adorable personalities of my unique IIASA memories.

Sebouh Baghdoyan
Directorate, Information Management and Archives, 1976-1990

Photo contribution by Anders Karlqvist, please see corresponding text in comments below.

Saint Lucia Day celebration on December 13, 1978.

From left: Silfver Newton, Anders Karlqvist, Åke Andersson with his wife Ethel in the background


Please feel free to share your messages of support or memories of Silfver in the space below.

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Last edited: 24 January 2018


Monika Bauer

IIASA Network and Alumni Officer Communications and External Relations Department


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313