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General Ellen M. Pawlikowski
2022 Arthur M. Bueche Award Winner
I want to thank the Bueche Award Selection Committee and the National Academy of Engineers for this tremendous recognition. I would also like to thank my fellow Aerospace Engineering Section members who I suspect were my nominators for this prestigious award. So many of them have been my mentors, my colleagues, and my friends, Les Lyles, Paul Nielsen, Wanda Austin, John Tracy, and of course, my wingman, Natalie Crawford. I would also be remiss if I did not recognize Dr Hans Mark who passed away last year. He viewed life as one great adventure in science and, as my mentor, challenged me to join him in the chase!
It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the National Academy of Engineers especially because you represent the very best of my profession. I am in awe of our membership, not only because of what you have accomplished but more importantly by your dedication to service.
I must admit, I was not familiar with the Bueche award before President Anderson called me to notify me of my selection. After I did my research on Arthur Beuche and the previous award winners, I realized just how special selection for this award is to me because of the focus on promoting technology development and enhancing collaboration between government, industry and universities. These themes resonate with my lifetime goals.
I have dedicated my life to two goals, first to bring technology to bear on solving the most difficult challenges. I served for 36 years in the United States Air Force and was blessed to have the opportunity to work on transforming technology into capabilities that made our country more secure while helping bring American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guardsmen home safely.
Along the way, I learned that nothing could be accomplished without teamwork between the Department of Defense, industry, and academia. As a government official, I often had to cut across organizational and contractual bureaucracy to get the job done. I would remind my government teammates that we could not succeed if our contractor partner didn’t succeed. Then, I would caution our academic researchers that technology doesn’t know its application without the users guidance. And in the end, we all enjoyed the success of seeing a new capability fielded and lives saved. Today, I cherish the sweet reward of pointing to the sky and telling my grandchildren that their grandma helped make that airplane or that rocket ship!
But, as Hans Mark would say, there is so much more to be done. Today’s technical challenges call for even better teamwork between government, industry, and academia.
Our continued success also hinges on achieving my second lifelong goal, which is to ensure that our engineering community benefits from talented people regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or economic background.
I grew up with a father that encouraged me to pursue an engineering degree. When I entered college in 1974, I had no idea how unique it was to be a woman studying engineering. And for too many years, I found myself as the only woman in the room and in a room with no African Americans. Throughout my career, I tried to change that by encouraging, mentoring, and helping women and minorities grow as engineers.
We have made progress as witnessed in the diversity of the NAE classes we inducted this weekend. But we are not done. We have overcome many institutional obstacles to diversity but must continue to challenge cultural and economic barriers.
In Macon, GA, where I live, there is a grammar school, St Peter Claver School, where 67% of the students live below the poverty line and 90% are African American or Hispanic. They recently received government funding and donations to install a STEM center for their students. It is a small effort in the overall scheme of things, but it has the potential to improve the future for those students and our nation.
In my dreams, I see one of those students sitting beside my granddaughter in this auditorium as new inductees of the National Academy of Engineers. Perhaps then, I can say we have achieved both my goals.
Thank you again for this honor.