The World's Forum for Aerospace Leadership

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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

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Faces of the Foundation

Faces of the Foundation

New Leadership for the AIAA Foundation

George Muellner, chairman of the AIAA Foundation and its new Invest in the Future endowment campaign, announces that Dennis J. Picard will serve as vice-chair of the campaign.

Mr. Picard is a retired chairman and chief executive officer of Raytheon Company and a past president and Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. After serving in the Air Force during the Korean conflict he joined Raytheon in 1955, where he became a leader in the aerospace industry.

Among his many achievements, Mr. Picard has been honored as a Life Fellow of the IEEE for his leadership in the development and implementation of large phased array radars, and by the Navy League of the United States with the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Award for outstanding contributions to the United States’ Maritime Strength.

As a strong supporter of STEM and aerospace education, Mr. Picard’s work as vice-chair of the Invest in the Future endowment campaign will have a significant impact for today’s students, who will become the future of our industry.

The AIAA Foundation’s campaign goal is to raise $10 million for its education programs, which:

Advance STEM education through K-12 education programs, classroom grants for special projects, educator achievement awards to teachers who inspire and ignite interest in science and technology;Prepare students for the workforce with 42 merit-based scholarships and 10 student conferences annually worldwide;Promote professional achievement via our Honors and Awards Programs forindustry professionals and educators

Foster innovation through design competitions and paper competitions.To make your contribution to the Invest in the Future endowment campaign, visit or call 703.264.7518.

David Thompson - Nurturing the Spark of Inspiration

David Thompson, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder, Orbital Sciences Corporation.
Dave Thompson, past president of AIAA, has been an AIAA member since 1972. He was the recipient of AIAA awards during his student years, and is now an AIAA Fellow. He has been awarded the National Medal of Technology, the National Air and Space Museum Trophy, and the World Technology Award for Space, and has been named the High-Technology Entrepreneur of the Year. Here, he talks about his beginnings in aerospace.

“My obsession with space began when I was three years old. Early one evening in the fall of 1957, my dad took me outside, where we stood in our backyard and looked up into the sky. I saw something that looked like a star shoot across the horizon; I didn’t know what it was, but I was fascinated by the sight.

“That shooting star was Sputnik II, and I have loved rockets and satellites ever since. A toy rocket became my prized possession, and when I went to grade school, my buddies and I tried to build real rockets. Our creations would occasionally fly for a few seconds, more by happy accident than anything else. This was in the 1960s, when the Space Race captured the attention of the public, and rocketry was a growing national interest.

“In high school, I built bigger and bigger amateur rockets until I had exhausted all of the information I could find on them. In my research I discovered AIAA, and asked the Institute to send me any available materials about rockets. Some kind person at the AIAA office sent me several books, including The Guide to Model Rocketry, which was my Bible for years. That was my first contact with AIAA, which has influenced my education and subsequent career ever since.

“It took a leap of imagination to think that aerospace engineering was something that I could pursue, as no one in my family had ever considered such ambitions, but they supported my efforts. I was further helped along by a series of scholarships and fellowships.

“A scholarship not only helps with the cost of education, but also opens a student’s eyes to possibilities. As important as the money was, there was also the sense of recognition, an assurance that I was on the right path. That meant more to me, and to my future in the space industry, than the money.“

Thompson recently pledged $100,000 to the AIAA Foundation for the David and Catherine Thompson Space Technology Scholarship to support undergraduate student education. “Giving back the support that others provided for me is one of the most rewarding things I can do,” says Thompson. “And one of the most important things all of us can do to secure the future of our profession is to give recognition to deserving students early on, providing them with both the funds and the encouragement to master the field. When it is my time to retire, I want to make sure that today’s students will be ready, since they are our future.”

To learn more about the David and Catherine Thompson Space Technology Scholarship, or the AIAA Foundation, please visit