2014 AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala a Grand Success
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
The annual AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala took place on the evening of 30 April 2014, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, bringing together the best and brightest in the aerospace industry for a glittering celebration of “those who have continuously pushed the boundaries of human achievement in aeronautics and astronautics,” as AIAA Executive Director Sandy Magnus explained to the 500 guests from around the world. A number of special guests attended this year’s event, including Charles Bolden, administrator, NASA; Maj Gen Genaro J. Dellarocco, former commander, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command; Dr. Lourdes Maurice, executive director, Environment & Energy, FAA; and Lt Gen Ellen Pawlikowksi, U.S. Air Force, commander, Space and Missiles Systems Command. (Image: AIAA Executive Director Sandy Magnus opens up the ceremonies.)
Following introductions of the AIAA Board of Directors, Magnus praised members for their work on behalf of the Institute, and then announced a new partnership between AIAA, the Future Space Leaders Foundation, the Society of Satellite Professionals International, and the Achievement Rewards for the Young College Scientists Foundation College Scientists Foundation to bring young professionals and students to the gala in future years as a way of recognizing their efforts, and as a way of demonstrating the importance of their work and what they could accomplish one day, thus inspiring them to continue pursuing an aerospace career.
Following Magnus’ introductory remarks, AIAA President Mike Griffin offered a few remarks on the conclusion of his AIAA presidency and welcomed incoming AIAA President Jim Albaugh. Griffin also recognized former AIAA President Mark Lewis for his steadfast leadership of the AIAA Foundation, a role that Griffin assumed immediately following the gala’s conclusion. Griffin’s remarks centered on the important role that the AIAA Foundation plays in inspiring students around the world to pursue aerospace careers. While reminding attendees that gifts to the Foundation help it stay involved in “shaping the future of aerospace,” Griffin mentioned that Dr. Ray Johnson, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation, had recently announced that his company would be making a “significant, transformative, multi-year corporate commitment” to the Foundation to ensure that it’s influential role remains robust. At the end of his comments, Griffin handed off the leadership gavel to incoming AIAA President Jim Albaugh.
Having received the leadership gavel from Griffin, Albaugh took the opportunity to thank the members in attendance for electing him AIAA President. He also thanked Griffin for his outstanding leadership of the Institute, praising him as a “fabulous leader and terrific spokesman for our industry,” promising to call him frequently for advice during his term of leadership, and presenting him with the Past President’s pin. Griffin thanked the membership for having initially elected him President of AIAA back in 2004, an office he could not hold at the time, as he had been appointed NASA Administrator under President George W. Bush.
After the leadership transition ceremony, the evening continued with the presentation of the newly elected AIAA Fellows and Honorary Fellows. Each of the Honorary Fellows addressed the audience, speaking about their careers, their feelings about being named an Honorary Fellow, and the significance of being named an Honorary Fellow, as well as praising specific individuals who were instrumental in shaping their careers and lives. Their remarks reminded the audience that a career filled with remarkable accomplishments is not just the work of one person – that there are many who inspire, shape, and guide individuals on a path to success and that we should always find the time to thank those who helped us at one time or another. This was summed up best when past AIAA President Lt Gen George Muellner, U.S. Air Force (retired), explained that he was “inspired to pursue aerospace as a profession thanks to the influence of an Robert Liebeck, another AIAA Honorary Fellow, during the time he spent in Liebeck’s class at the University of Illinois,” aptly demonstrating that all AIAA members can play a role in inspiring the next generation of aerospace professionals. (Image: AIAA Fellows and Honorary Fellows, class of 2014.)
Another memorable moment of the evening was Albaugh bidding a fond farewell to AIAA Deputy Executive Director Klaus Dannenberg, who is retiring later this month. Albaugh thanked Dannenberg for his 45+ years of service, and for “his vision, his insight into our community, and the support he has given his colleagues.” Members of the audience, including AIAA staff in attendance, joined Albaugh in “wishing Klaus nothing but the best upon his retirement.”
Following dinner, AIAA’s premier awards were presented, recognizing excellence in aerospace engineering and science, as well as service to the Institute and enduring support of our community.
The first award, the AIAA Foundation Award for Excellence, recognized deserving organizations or individuals for extraordinary accomplishments in the promotion of aerospace. Mark Lewis, past AIAA president and chairman of the AIAA Foundation, gave the award to the X-51A WaveRider Team for “the demonstration of the feasibility of sustained air breathing hypersonic flight by achieving a 300 second flight at Mach 5.” A video presentation of the X-51A’s historic flight, which took place 1 May 2013, was shown to the audience. The video featured interviews with key members of the X-51A team, allowing them to share insight about the X-51A project and its importance to the future of flight. Accepting the award were Charles Brink, X-51A program director, Air Force Research Laboratories; George Thum, X-51A program manager, Aerojet Rocketdyne; and Joseph Vogel, director, Airborne Space Access and X-51A program manager, The Boeing Company. Speaking on behalf of the team, Brink called the X-51A program a “very, very special time in my professional life.” He went on to say that working on the project was “the best of times and the worst of times, that we had two good flights and they were the best of times, and two bad flights which were the worst of times.” Brink concluded his remarks by hailing hypersonic technology “both air breathing and boost glide” as “real technologies, … they are game changing technologies that we hope will push the Air Force forward to the next capabilities for the warfighter.” He added, “Think about the responsiveness of a tactical cruise missile going 500 nautical miles, in about ten minutes. That gives the commanders out in the field a great, great tool.” Members of the X-51A team who were in the audience joined Brink, Thum, and Vogel on stage for a group photograph. (Image: AIAA Foundation Award for Excellence X-51A WaveRider Team)
The next award presented was the Goddard Astronautics Award, the highest honor AIAA bestows for notable achievements in the field of astronautics. The award was given to Glynn S. Lunney, AIAA Fellow, and Vice President and Program Manager, United Space Alliance (retired), NASA, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, for his 50+ years of “outstanding contributions to America’s manned space program from Project Mercury to the space shuttle and space station.” In his video presentation, Lunney talked about the importance of Robert H. Goddard to the advancement of space exploration, and his contributions to the propulsion system that was utilized in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights, and expressed his thanks and his respect for “the practitioners who are doing the aerospace work today.” Lunney then touched upon his own early good fortune, “I was lucky. I got out of college in 1958 [and] a drawing crossed my desk, and it was the inboard profile of what became the Mercury spacecraft. I was asked two questions: 1) How do you like it? And I was in awe of the drawing. The second question: the fellas down at Langley are starting to work on making this a reality, do you want to join them? Simple question, and my answer came out of my mouth before I even realized I was saying it.” Lunney also recognized his wife, Marilyn, and shared that it was their 54th wedding anniversary, resulting in enormous applause.
The Reed Aeronautics Award then was presented to Ben T. Zinn, AIAA Fellow, and David S. Lewis, Jr., chair, and regents’ professor, School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Zinn received the award for his “extensive and fundamental contributions to aerospace propulsion and power technologies, research, education, literature, and workforce development.” In Zinn’s introductory video, he remarked what the award meant to him because he “was selected for it by my peers, and it was presented to me by AIAA, the professional society that played a key role in my professional life.”
Zinn recognized that the award would not have been possible without the help of “many wonderful colleagues and students” who had worked with him “over the years.” He also thanked the “more than 60 Ph.D. students” who worked with him, and the “numerous M.S. students and undergraduate students” who asked him many questions that he “could not answer. This is what makes you think and create new things.”
Zinn acknowledged Roger Krone, president, Network and Space Systems, The Boeing Company, who had been named an AIAA Fellow earlier in the evening, as one of his undergraduate students, saying he was “one of the good students who challenged me.” Zinn also recognized “the wonderful team of faculty and staff we have in the combustion lab at Georgia Tech,” stating “those guys are just remarkable, they work effortlessly, and I could not have asked for a better team of people to work with.” He went on to mention the “unbelievable support” he received from Georgia Tech spanning his 49 years at the institution. “Yes, I’ve only had one job in my life,” he said, adding, “and I’m looking forward to next year as it will be my 50th year at Georgia Tech.” Concluding his remarks, Zinn thanked AIAA “whose conferences, publications, and committees helped me to remain current and keep up with technology. Really, if the AIAA did not exist and didn’t make it possible for us to keep up with technology, we would not be where we are today, and I hope all of us recognize it.” Zinn also thanked his family, 12 of whom were in attendance at the gala to share in the celebration of his accomplishments.
The Daniel Guggenheim Medal was awarded to Abraham E. “Abe” Karem, president, Karem Aircraft Inc. The medal, jointly sponsored by AIAA, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, the American Helicopter Society International, and the Society of Automotive Engineers International, honors notable achievement in aeronautics. Karem received the award for “a lifetime of innovative fixed and rotary wing unmanned vehicle designs.” During Karem’s introductory video, he expressed his belief that “an engineer is like a carpenter, give me wood, and I will build a chair, I know the chair is good if somebody buys it, likes it, and asks for more. So, I’m very happy to see what I did before is being used in the world.” Karem spoke of the impact that unmanned aircraft are having on the world, stating “I love what I do, I love building the teams who come in with me, to build exciting new aircraft. I’ve always said that technology is nothing but people. Usually passionate, exciting people who do technology, and AIAA really brings people together and brings the excitement together, and as such are really at the core of what we are doing in aerospace.” (Image: Abraham E. Karem (and team) accepts the Daniel Guggenheim Medal)
Following his introductory video, Karem talked about his admiration for the aerospace pioneers of the golden age of aerospace – a period he delineated as being from 1935 to 1965 – noting “I am humbled by how quickly advancements in technology have fielded new aircraft, often with very small teams and very low funding.” He explained that “the B-17 was developed by 70 engineers” and that “the P-51 went from a napkin sketch to first flight in four months, from a company who had no previous fighter experience.” He added that his “six teams in the last 50 years were all built as copies of this template, so I especially want to thank my teams of engineers, technicians, and support people, who have shared my dreams, who poured their hearts into my aircraft.” Karem promoted the value of small teams to the aerospace profession, and asked the audience to spread that message.
AIAA’s highest recognition bestowed upon a member, the AIAA Distinguished Service Award, was given to Michael I. Yarymovych, AIAA Honorary Fellow, former AIAA president, and president and chief executive officer of Sarasota Space Associates. He was honored for his “60 years of dedicated service to IAS, ARS, AIAA and IAF and outstanding leadership for the aerospace profession in government, industry and the international community.” In his introductory video, Yarymovych shared his emotion upon learning he’d be this year’s award recipient, and the gratification he felt as someone who had come to the United States “as a refugee, escaping the devastation of post-World War II Germany.” Yarymovych talked about the personal hardships he had endured in the war, including “fleeing the Russians, … ending up in a German labor camp near the end of the war … [and] enduring the horrors of bombing and strafing from airplanes.” He added, “but then, during the Berlin Blockade, I also saw the good that came from aircraft, I was one of the kids you see in pictures gathering up the candy dropped by American ‘candy bombers,’ and I made up my mind then and there that I wanted to build these wonderful flying machines.” Yaramovych came to the United States and enrolled in the aeronautical engineering program at New York University, joining the student branches of the American Rocket Society and the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences (AIAA’s predecessor organizations), “dedicating his life to the profession he loves so dearly.” Yarymovych’s video concluded with his wish that we “would continue to grow and expand our horizons.”
From the stage, Yarymovych noted that he “had been at the podium many times to present awards to outstanding AIAA members,” but never had he thought that he would be “the subject, rather than the object of the award ceremonies.” He went on to express his gratitude for the award stating that it is a “recognition of my love and devotion to my chosen profession, that of being an engineer.” He reminded the audience that it is “us, the engineers, who make the machines, who create the things that make our lives better and safer, especially those magnificent machines who fly.”
Next, the AIAA Public Service Award was presented, which honors a person outside the aerospace community who has shown consistent and visible support for national aviation and space goals. This year’s award was presented to Dr. Kathie Olsen, founder, ScienceWorks, Inc., Washington, DC, and affiliate professor of neurosciences at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. In her introductory video, Olsen praised AIAA’s commitment to students, stating “they have so many opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to get involved in the aerospace and astronomy communities, they play a major role in this country.” On the stage, Olsen directly thanked AIAA for the tremendous honor of being named this year’s Public Service Award winner, and opined, “I think AIAA should be giving themselves the Public Service Award for what they do.”
Commemorating former Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater’s support of education and honoring an individual of national stature supporting the advances of technology education, the AIAA National Capital Section Barry Goldwater Educator Award was presented to Dr. Arthur F. “Rick” Obenschain, deputy director, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, for his “outstanding career achievements at NASA, exceptional contributions to the national space program, and unwavering dedication to the advancement of all aerospace students and professionals.” In the video preceding the award’s presentation, George Morrow, director, Flight Projects, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, praised Obenschain’s commitment to the next generation of engineers, noting that “Rick is always the first one to raise his hand for any type of early career program,” while adding that he “could not think of another person more deserving of this recognition.” Dr. Christopher Scolese, director, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, accepted the award on Dr. Obenschain’s behalf, noting that throughout his career Obenschain had served as a mentor “to every current NASA Center director, including himself, at some point in their careers,” demonstrating Obenschain’s commitment to education and his help in shaping the next generation of aerospace leaders.
The evening’s last award presentation was the International Cooperation Award, “recognizing an individual, or individuals, who have made significant contributions to the initiation, organization, implementation and/or management of activities with significant U.S. involvement that includes extensive international cooperative activities in space, aeronautics or both,” presented to Dr. John E. LaGraff, AIAA Associate Fellow, and professor emeritus, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY,
AIAA President Jim Albaugh concluded the evening by saying how nice it was that the community could come together and celebrate. He thanked George Muellner for his work on the Awards Committee and the AIAA staff for their planning and management of the event.
View all Gala photos on AIAA's Flickr page.