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Wanda Austin

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Information about Wanda Austin

Profile image of Wanda Austin

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Aeronautical Engineer
Academic Administrator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Teal
Favorite Food:
Sweet Potato Pie
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
East Coast of the United States, Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Continued Success.

Birthplace

Born:
9/8/1954
Birth Location:
New York, New York

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Aeronautical Engineer
Academic Administrator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Teal
Favorite Food:
Sweet Potato Pie
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
East Coast of the United States, Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Continued Success.

Birthplace

Born:
9/8/1954
Birth Location:
New York
See how Wanda Austin is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Aeronautical engineer and academic administrator Wanda Austin was born on September 8, 1954 in New York, New York to Helen McCallum Lewis Pompey and Murry Pompey. She graduated from The Bronx High School of Science in 1971, and received a scholarship to attend Franklin and Marshall College, where she earned her B.S. degree in mathematics in 1975. She later received her M.S. degree in systems engineering and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1977, and her Ph.D. degree in systems engineering from the University of Southern California in 1988.

In 1977, Austin accepted a position at Rockwell International in California working with missile systems. Two years later, she joined The Aerospace Corporation, where she served as a member of the technical staff for seventeen years. In 1996, she was promoted to general manager of the electronic systems division, and was then named general manager of the Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) Division. After three years, she became senior vice president of the engineering and technology group; and, in 2004, Austin became senior vice president of the national system group based in Chantilly, Virginia. In 2008, she was transferred back to California and was named the first female and first African American CEO of The Aerospace Corporation. For eight years, Austin led the organization’s 3,600 employees and managed annual revenues of $950 million at seventeen offices nationwide. Austin retired from her position in 2016, and published her book Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World. Two years later, Austin was named the first African American female interim president of the University of Southern California.

Austin received numerous awards including the Women of the Year award and the Robert H. Herndon Black Image Award from The Aerospace Group. In 2002, she was named a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Austin was also inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2007, and received the Black Engineer of the Year Award in 2009. The following year, Austin received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management. She was later honored with the Horatio Alger Award and the NDIA Peter B. Teets Industry Award in 2012, and was awarded the USC Presidential Medallion in 2018.

In addition to these honors, Austin was selected to serve on President Obama’s Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee in 2009, and the Defense Science Board in 2010. That same year, she was elected to the USC Board of Trustees. In 2014, Austin was appointed to the NASA Advisory Council; and, the following year, was appointed to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Austin also serves on the board of directors for Chevron and Amgen.

Austin and her husband, Wade Austin, Jr., have two adult sons.

Wanda Austin was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 25, 2011 and February 5, 2019.

See how Wanda Austin is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Wanda Austin's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Wanda Austin lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Wanda Austin describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Wanda Austin describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Wanda Austin talks about her parents' marriage
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Wanda Austin shares memories of growing up in the Claremont Projects in the Bronx
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Wanda Austin describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Wanda Austin talks about her elementary school experiences
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Wanda Austin remembers her extracurricular activities as a youth
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Wanda Austin talks about attending a predominantly Jewish elementary school
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Wanda Austin recalls the encouragement from her elementary school teachers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Wanda Austin shares her experiences at Bronx High School of Science - part one
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Wanda Austin shares her experiences at Bronx High School of Science - part two
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Wanda Austin recalls learning of the events of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Wanda Austin describes her favorite teachers and her college aspirations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Wanda Austin recalls her experiences at Franklin and Marshall College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Wanda Austin discusses her decision to pursue mathematics in college
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Wanda Austin talks about her graduate studies in engineering at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Wanda Austin discusses her master's thesis at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Wanda Austin talks about her work at Rockwell International
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Wanda Austin recalls her move to Aerospace Corporation from Rockwell International
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Wanda Austin discusses the mission of Aerospace Corporation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Wanda Austin shares her initial experiences at Aerospace Corporation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Wanda Austin discusses her career path at Aerospace Corporation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Wanda Austin talks about meeting her husband, Wade Austin
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Wanda Austin describes her Ph.D. thesis from the University of Southern California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Wanda Austin talks about Aerospace Corporation's military applications
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Wanda Austin talks about the issues of space debris
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Wanda Austin talks about the impact of the Cold War on science and technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Wanda Austin talks about global access to space technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Wanda Austin talks about space technology and security concerns in the post-9/11 world - part one
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Wanda Austin discusses her advancement within the Aerospace Corporation to senior vice president of the Engineering and Technology Group
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Wanda Austin talks about science as "color-blind"
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Wanda Austin talks about space technology and security concerns in the post-9/11 world - part two
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Wanda Austin describes her role in the National Systems Group
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Wanda Austin shares her thoughts on the future of space technology and the Aerospace Corporation
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Wanda Austin reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Wanda Austin talks about the future of the United States' programs in space
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Wanda Austin wishes she would have had more role models as a youth
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Wanda Austin shares her parents' thoughts on her success
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Wanda Austin describes balancing her personal and professional life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Wanda Austin talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Wanda Austin talks about how she would like to be remembered