Distinguished Alumni

Karen Albrecht – COE: BSAE 1972

Albrecht recently retired from an illustrious 35+ year career as an Aerospace Engineer working on the Space Shuttle, Missile Launching Systems, Commercial Aircraft, Undersea, SMART Structures and high performance Military Aircraft. Karen spent 9 years at NASA and retired as a Director of Engineering from Lockheed Martin. She has a BSE in Aerospace Engineering ‘72 from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering ’78 from Rice University. She has several additional courses in technology, management and leadership.

John Cashman – COE: BSE 1966

Cashman was a Boeing test pilot who piloted the first flight of the 777.

H. Moon Chen – BSE 1932

H. Moon Chen (June 19, 1908 – December 7, 2009), better known as Moon Chen, was a second generation Chinese American who was an aviator, airline executive, and aerospace consultant. Chen served as an officer in the 14th Air Force (Flying Tigers) during World War II in the China-Burma-India Theater. He, like many others, was a part of the Greatest Generation who contributed to the war effort but reverted to civilian life after. Moon Chen graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S.E in Aeronautical Engineering in 1932.

William S. Chen – COE: BSE 1960, MSE 1961

William S. Chen (November 11, 1939 -), better known as Bill Chen, is a third-generation Chinese-American. Chen served as a career U.S. Army officer for over 32 years and retired as a major general in 1993. In 1989 at age 49, he was the first Chinese-American to wear two-star rank of major general in the U.S. Army. Upon promotion to major general, Chen was assigned as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, 1989-1992, fulfilling a career-long ambition to command there. Bill Chen graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S.E. degree in engineering mathematics in 1960 and an M.S.E. degree in aeronautical & astronautical engineering in 1961.

Headshot of David Darmofal wearing a helmet and vest with headphones around his neck and outside on a body of water with a city behind him.

David Darmofal – BSE 1989

Dave Darmofal graduated with a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1989 and went on to get his PhD in Aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 1993. He was a post doctoral fellow in computational sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan for 1994 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998 he was an assistant professor in the department of aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. In 1998 he became an assistant professor in the Department of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT and became a full professor in 2010.

Glidden S. “Glid” Doman – BSE 1942

“Glid” Doman was an experienced test engineer and designer of helicopters. He is founder of Doman Helicopters Inc. His helicopters were used exclusively by the U.S. Army and Navy until receiving certification from the United States FAA and the equivalent Canadian authority which allowed for the sale of helicopters for commercial use. Glid also did research with wind turbine where scale model wind turbines were tested in a wind tunnel commonly used for helicopters and airplanes. He soon after lead Italy’s wind energy program permitting him to later be instrumental in developing the “Gamma” wind turbine. This eventually led to the establishment of Gamma Ventures Inc. Of the original six companies in the U.S. helicopter industry he is of the few pioneers to have transferred rotor dynamics technology to wind turbines.

Headshot of Kiko Dontchev smiling wearing a blue collard shirt

Kiko Dontchev – BSAE 2008

Kiko Dontchev graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering in 2008 and later his Masters in Space Engineering in 2010. Kiko joined SpaceX in May 2010, leading development of Lithium Ion batteries for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. In 2013, he took on the role of lead engineer driving the design and build of the first engineering test vehicle for Dragon 2, SpaceX’s next-generation crewed spacecraft, and many other achievements.

Jennifer L. Duke – COE: BSAE 1992

Duke is the director of Aerodynamics at Pratt & Whitney. She was named the Director of Aerodynamics within Pratt & Whitney Engineering in 2013. Ms. Duke has been with Pratt & Whitney since 1992 and has held roles of increasing responsibility in the Performance Systems Analysis, Turbine Aerodynamics, and the Turbine Module Center organizations. She was the performance systems chief for the Operational Commercial Engines group and the Executive Assistant to Pratt & Whitney’s Chief Operating Officer. Since 2013, she sits on the industry advisory board for the University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering Department and the advisory board for the University of Connecticut Department of Mechanical Engineering. She received her B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1992. He was killed in the crash of a T-38 jet.

Theodore Freeman – M.S. 1960

Freeman was a NASA astronaut and a captain in the United States air force. He served primarily in performance flight testing and stability testing areas. He was killed in the crash of a T-38 jet.

Robert A. Fuhrman – BSAE

Fuhrman is a pioneering Lockheed engineer who played a central role in the creation of the Polaris and Poseidon missiles. During more than three decades at Lockheed, Fuhrman served as president of three of its companies: Lockheed-Georgia, Lockheed-California and Lockheed Missiles & Space. Fuhrman was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1976 “for contributions to the design and development of the Polaris and Poseidon underwater launch ballistic missile systems.” He became president and chief operating officer of the corporation in 1986 and vice chairman in 1988 before retiring in 1990.

Robert Hall – COE: BSE 1927

Robert Hall was an American Air racing pilot and aircraft designer responsible for the Granville Brothers Aircraft Gee Bee Z racer that won the 1931 Thompson Trophy race and Grumman test pilot. He is credited with major role in the design of the Grumman F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat and TBM Avenger. He also served as Grumman’s chief engineering and vice president.

Headshot of Sydney Hamilton

Sydney Hamilton –BSAE 2013

After completing her undergraduate Aerospace Engineering degree at the University of Michigan, Hamilton earned her Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She has worked at the Boeing Company for the past 6 years where she is currently a Mechanical Systems Engineer for Space and Launch.

Lauri N. Hansen – COE: BSE 1985

Hansen received Bachelor of Science Degree, Aerospace Engineering, University
of Michigan, 1985. Lauri’s NASA career began in 1984 as a co-op at Johnson Space Center (JSC); hired in 1986; began work in Mission Planning/ Analysis Division. Contributions include: leading development of variable altitude strategy for International Space Station (ISS); leading ISS design reference mission development; integrated operation scenarios/development of ISS design analysis cycles. Became Deputy Manager, ISS Vehicle Office 1996; a key leader during early ISS development. She’s held successively responsible positions: Manager, Engineering Project Management; Deputy Director, Engineering. Following 2003 Columbia accident, co-led Crew Survival Working Group; became Deputy Director, Safety & Mission Assurance. Lauri named JSC Chief of Staff, 2011 and is now Director, Engineering at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Willis Hawkins – COE: BSE 1937

Hawkins was a Lockheed engineer who contributed to the designs of a number of historic Lockheed aircraft, including the Constellation, P-80 Shooting Star, XF-90, F-94 Starfire, F-104 Starfighter and C-130 Hercules. He started the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, serving as President. He also served as Assistant Secretary for Research and Development for the US Army.

Karl Henize – Ph.D. 1954

Karl Henize is an astronomer, NASA astronaut, space scientist, and professor at Northwestern University. He was stationed at several observatories around the world, including McCormick observatory, Lamont-Hussey Observatory (South Africa), Mount Wilson observatory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Mount Stromlo Observatory (Australia). He was in the astronaut support crew for Apollo 15 and Skylab 2/3/4. As a mission specialist on the Spacelab-2 mission (STS-51-F), he flew on Space Shuttle Challenger in July/August 1985. He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1974.

Headshot of Mike Hess wearing a suit and tie smiling with flags behind him

Michael G. Hess – BSE 1991

Mike Hess began his NASA career in 1989 as a Cooperative Employment Student at Johnson Space Center (JSC).  He served as an Extravehicular Activity Officer planning spacewalks, training astronauts, developing space tools, and serving as a Mission Controller for Shuttle and Station.  Hess served in roles of increasing responsibility including Chief of the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, Division Chief, Chief of Space Medicine, acting JSC Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Associate Director of Engineering, and NASA Operations Manager for the Commercial Crew Program, where he coordinated the NASA Go for Launch with SpaceX and Boeing for the first commercial crew missions as well as co-chair of the Mission Management Team. 

Hess served as acting Associate Center Director for JSC where he helped manage the installation with 14,000 civil servant and contractor employees with a $5 billion budget.  He served as the Deputy of Safety for the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) and as Deputy Director of the NASA Office of JPL Management and Oversight (NOJMO) at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).  Hess currently serves as the Deputy Associate Administrator for NASA Mission Support Directorate (MSD).

Mike Hess earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an executive MBA from the Naval Postgraduate School. Hess has been recognized with the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the Silver Snoopy Award, and Center Director’s Commendation.

Headshot of Harry Hillaker wearing a suit and tie

Harry Hillaker – 1941

Harry Hillaker graduated from the University of Michigan (Flint) with a degree in Aerospace Engieering. Later in his life as a senior engineer at General Dynamics’ Fort Worth aircraft plant in the 1960s, Mr. Hillaker led a design team that worked, secretively at first, with a small group of Pentagon insurgents to turn a collection of ideas, theories and concepts into what would become the F-16.

Debra Facktor LePore – COE: BSE 1988, MSE 1989 | 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner

LePore is vice president and general manager of Strategic Operations for Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp, responsible for increasing Ball Aerospace’s visibility in the market and facilitating collaboration across stakeholders Previously, she was an industry professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, where she led its Master’s of Engineering in Technical Leadership program and served as Director of Strategic Programs for the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC). She began her career as an aerospace engineer on strategic defense and advanced launch programs at ANSER in Washington, DC. Lepore is an active leader in the community, including serving as former board chair of Women in Aerospace (WIA), as founding president of the WIA Foundation, and on the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). Lepore holds a B.S.E. (magna cum laude) and M.S.E. in aerospace engineering, both from the University of Michigan.

James B. Irwin – MS 1957, HSCD 1971

Irwin is an American astronaut. He served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10, the first mission to carry the full Apollo stack to the moon and the dry run for the first manned moon landing. He then served as backup lunar module pilot for the second moon landing mission, Apollo 12, before becoming the Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 15, the fourth human lunar landing. He was the eighth person to walk on the Moon.

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson – COE: 1932 BSE, 1933 MSE, 1964 PhD (Hon)

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was an American system engineer and aeronautical innovator. He was the founder of the Lockheed Skunk Works and the designer of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, P-80 Shooting Star, JetStar, F-104 Starfighter, U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird. He played a leading role in the design of over forty aircrafts, including several honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy, acquiring a reputation as one of the most talented and prolific aircraft design engineers in the history of aviation. He was also a winner of the National Medal of Science.

Andy Klesh – BSE, EE & Aerospace Engineering 2005

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was an American system engineer and aeronautical innovator. He was the founder of the Lockheed Skunk Works and the designer of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, P-80 Shooting Star, JetStar, F-104 Starfighter, U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird. He played a leading role in the design of over forty aircrafts, including several honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy, acquiring a reputation as one of the most talented and prolific aircraft design engineers in the history of aviation. He was also a winner of the National Medal of Science.

Edgar J. Lesher – July 31, 1914 – May 19, 1998

Lesher was a notable aircraft designer and pilot and a professor of aerospace engineering. He designed and constructed the Lesher Teal, an all-aluminum single-piece aircraft. Lesher flew Teal to the 1965 Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In in Rockford, Illinois, where he won an award from the EAA for his achievements.

Headshot of David Levy

David Levy – PHD 1990

David Levy earned his PhD in Aerospace in 1990 from the University of Michigan. He dedicated career toward the advancement of airplane design, development, and certification through practice, research, and teaching. Proven record in the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics and Applied Aerodynamics to solve problems with a focus on value-added to the final product. Currently, he works as a Senior Principal Aerospace Engineer, Flight Sciences at Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Jack R. Lousma – 1959, HSCD 1973

Lousma is a former NASA astronaut and politician. He served as a member of the astronaut support crews for the Apollo 9, 10, and 13 missions. Lousma was famously the CAPCOM recipient of the “Houston, we’ve had a problem” message from Apollo 13. He was a member of the second manned crew on the Skylab space station in 1973, and in 1982, he commanded STS-3, the third space shuttle mission. He also served as bakup docking module pilot of the United States flight crew for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission, which was completed successfully in July 1975.

Elizabeth Muriel Gregory “Elsie” MacGill – COE: MSE OC 27 March 1905 – 4 November 1980

MacGill was known as the Queen of the Hurricanes, and was the world’s first female aircraft designer. She became the first woman elected to corporate membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada. MacGill served as Chief Aeronautical Engineering at Canadian Car and Coundry (CC&F), becoming the first woman in the world to hold such a position. Her factory was selected to build the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force. MacGill was responsible for designing solutions to allow the aircraft to operate during the winter, introducing de-icing controls and a system for fitting skis for landing on snow.

Headshot of Tricia Mack smiling

Tricia Mack – BSE 1994

While at the University of Michigan, she became a co-op student alternating working at the Johnson Space Center and school. After graduating from the University she joined NASA’s EVA group in which she worked her way up from instructor to flight controller to Systems Group Lead. Now she manages the Moscow technical Liaison Office.

Headshot of Ben Marchionna smiling with his arms crossed wearing a plaid suit jacket and a collard shirt

Ben Marchionna – BSE 2011

After earning his Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan he earned his Masters in product development engineering from the University of Southern California. He then went of to graduate from the Engineering leadership development program at Lockheed Martin skunk works. He is currently the director of technology & innovation at Electra.aero, prior to which he was vice president of global operations at skyspecs Outside of work he also serves as an appointee on the State of Michigan’s Unmanned aircraft systems task force.

James A. McDivitt – 1959, HSCD 1965

McDivitt is a former NASA astronaut who flew in the Gemini and Apollo programs. He was chosen as Command Pilot of the Gemini 4 flight during which Edward H. White performed the first US space walk, and later the Apollo 9 flight which was the first manned flight test of the Lunar Module and the complete set of Apollo flight hardware. He later became Manager of Lunar Landing Operations and was the Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager from 1969 to 1972.

Headshot of Rob Meyerson smiling

Rob Meyerson – BSE 1987

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Michigan, Meyerson joined Blue Origin in 2003 as program manager later becoming the first company president. Working with company founder Jeff Bezos, Meyerson grew the company from 10 to 1500 people.

Daniel J. Scheeres – BSE 1987, MSE 1988, PhD 1992

Scheeres is the A. Richard Seebass Endowed Chair in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. He has published extensively in the fields of astrodynamics, dynamical astronomy and celestial mechanics. Past positions include academic posts at The University of Michigan and Iowa State University, and at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society.

David R. Scott – PhD (Hon.) 1971

David Scott is an American engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer, former test pilot, and former NASA astronaut. As an astronaut, Scott made his first flight into space as pilot of the Gemini 8 mission, along with Neil Armstrong, in March 1966. Scott also served as Command Module Pilot aboard Apollo 9, his second spaceflight, along with Commander James McDivitt and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart. During this mission, Scott became the last American to fly solo in Earth orbit. Scott made his third and final flight into space as commander of the Apollo 15 mission, the fourth human lunar landing, becoming the seventh person to walk on the Moon and the first person to drive on the Moon.

Joseph Francis Shea – BS 1946, MS 1950, PhD 1955

Shea was an American aerospace engineer and NASA manager. He served as Deputy Director of NASA’s Office of Manner Space Flight, and later as manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office during Project Apollo. He played a key role in shaping the course of the Apollo program. Shea later became a senior manager at Raytheon, and then an adjunct professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT.

Sara Spangelo – PHD 2012

After receiving her PhD in Aerospace from Michigan in 2012, Sara has become the co-founder and CEO of Swarm, as she announces that her company is establishing the world’s lowest-cost global communications network for customers in remote locations by using breakthrough satellite and ground hardware technology. Before starting Swarm, Sara worked on small satellites and autonomous aircraft at the University of Michigan and then went on to become a lead systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and then Google X.

Headshot of Dr. Chang Hsien Tai wearing a suit and tie smiling

Chang-hsien Tai – PHD 1990

Chang-Hsien Tai received his Bachelor’s degree from the Dept. of Mechanics Engineering, Chung-Cheng Institute of Technology, Taiwan in 1979. He completed his Master’s degree in Dept. of Mechanics Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taiwan and in Dept. of Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan, USA. In 1990 he acquired a PhD at the Dept. of Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan, USA. Since 2006 Dr. Chang Hsien Tai has been the Academic Vice President, NPUST, Taiwan.

Floyd L. Thompson – BSE 1926

Thompson joined the NASA Langley Research center in 1927, and stayed for nearly five decades. He became the Chief of Research in 1945 and Director in 1960. It was Thompson who formed the Space Task Group at Langley, selected its personnel, and laid the groundwork for the subsequent Gemini and Apollo projects. He was awarded the Daniel Guggenheim medal in 1974. Thompson retired in 1968, and passed away in 1976.

Headshot of Hans Weichsel Jr. wearing a suit and tie

Hans Weichsel – 1943, BSE Aeronautical Engineering

Hans Weichsel is a graduate of University of Michigan with a BSE in Aerospace Engineering. He is now the retired vice president of Bell Helicopter Textron

Edward H. White – MS 1959, HSCD 1971

Edward White was an engineer, U.S. Air Force officer, and NASA astronaut. On June 3, 1965, he became the first American to “walk” in space on June 3, 1965. After this, he served as the back-up for Gemini 7 Command pilot Frank Borman, and was also named the astronaut specialist for the flight control systems of the Apollo Command/Service Module. White died along with his fellow astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee during prelaunch testing for the first manned Apollo mission at Cape Canaveral. He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his flight in Gemini 4 and then awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor posthumously.

Alfred Worden – MSE 1963, HSCD 1971

Alfred Worden is an American astronaut who was the command module pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. He later became President of Maris Worden Aerospace, Inc., and then became staff Vice President of BG Goodrich Aerospace in Brecksville, Ohio. Worden also served as chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation until 2011, providing scholarships to exceptional science and engineering students.