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Bio: Sheila Widnall

Institute Professor and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sheila Widnall was born July 13, 1938, in Tacoma Washington. She received her B.Sc. (1960), M.S. (1961), and Sc.D. (1964) in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was appointed Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1986. She served as Associate Provost, Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1992-1993 and as Secretary of the Air Force from 1993-1997. She was appointed Institute Professor in 1998.

Professor Widnall stepped down from her position as Secretary of the Air Force on October 31, 1997 to return to her faculty position at MIT. As Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Widnall was responsible for all the affairs of the Department of the Air Force including recruiting, organizing, training, administration, logistical support, maintenance, and welfare of personnel. During this time, the Air Force issued its long range vision statement: Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force, which defined the path from the Air and Space force of today to the Space and Air Force of the next century. Dr. Widnall was also responsible for research and development and other activities prescribed by the President or the Secretary of Defense. She co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

As Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Widnall had responsibility for academic integrity including conflict of interest policy, Federal relations, faculty retirement, tenure and promotion policies, and international programs.

Dr. Widnall is Vice President of the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Research Council of the National Academies. She is a trustee of the Sloan Foundation and the Institute for Defense Analyses.She is a director of GenCorp, Inc. She has been a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation and Vice Chair of its Board, a consultant to the Macarthur Foundation, a Director of the Aerospace Corporation, Draper Laboratory, ANSER Corp., Chemical Fabrics Incorporated and a trustee of the Boston Museum of Science, and a member of the Council, Smithsonian Institution of Washington. She was a member of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government. She is a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

She received the Lawrence Sperry Achievement Award in 1972 from the American Institute of Aeronautics; the Outstanding Achievement Award in 1975, from the Society of Women Engineers: the Washburn Award in 1987, from the Boston Museum of Science; the ASME Applied Mechanics Award in 1996; the 1993 National Academy of Engineering Distinguished Service Award; in 1994 honorary Doctor of Science degree from Princeton University; the 1994 Barnard College Medal of Distinction; the 1995 W. Stuart Symington Award from the Air Force Association; the 1995 Boston USO Military Service Award; the 1995 Maxwell A. Kriendler Memorial Award from the Air Force Association; the 1996 Durand Lectureship for Public Service from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; in 1996 she was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame; was named 1996 New Englander of the Year by the New England Council; and received the 1998 Goddard Award from the National Space Club; the Hartinger Award from the NDIA in 1999; the Reed Aeronautics Award from the AIAA in 2000; and the Sprit of St. Louis Medal from ASME in 2001. She is a Fellow of the APS; AAAS; AIAA; the Royal Aeronautical Society and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics; the National Academy of Engineering; and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She is a member of The Seattle Mountaineers; The Appalachian Mountain Club; The Eastern Yacht Club; the Charles River Wheelmen; and the Potomac Pedalers.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/23/2003
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