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Woodrow Whitlow, Jr.

Aerospace engineer and federal government administrator Woodrow Whitlow, Jr. was born on December 13, 1952 in Inkster, Michigan. A quick-learner, he excelled at math and science. Whitlow aspired to be a chemist until space missions in the 1960s captured his imagination, changing his career goal to astronaut. Whitlow received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, 1975 and 1979, respectively.

Whitlow's long career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began in 1979, when he was hired as a research scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. At Langley, he specialized in fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and aeroelasticity. He rose quickly to become a senior research scientist and headed various specialty branches in astrophysics and aeronautics. In 1994, Whitlow became the Director of the Critical Technologies Division in the Office of Aeronautics at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He then moved to the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio in 1998, where he served as the Director of Research and Technology, among other positions. Whitlow was made Deputy Director of the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center in 2003 and oversaw launch-related services and activities until 2005 when he was appointed to Director of the NASA Glenn Research Center. In 2010, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named Whitlow the Associate Administrator for the Mission Support Directorate at NASA Headquarters. He retired in August of 2013 and later became Executive in Residence at the Cleveland State University Washkewicz College of Engineering.

Throughout his career, Whitlow has written over forty technical papers, most in the areas of unsteady transonic flow, aeroelasticity and propulsion. His awards include NASA’s Distinguished Service Honor Medal—the Agency’s highest honor; the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive—the highest award for federal executives; Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive; U.S. Black Engineer of the Year in Government; the NASA Exceptional Service Honor Medal; the NASA Equal Opportunity Honor Medal; the (British) Institution of Mechanical Engineers William Sweet Smith Prize; the Minorities in Research Science Scientist-of-the-Year Award; and the National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished Engineer of the Year Award. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics elected him as a Fellow in 2010. He also holds an honorary doctor of engineering degree from Cranfield University.

Woodrow Whitlow, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 3, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.070

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/3/2012

Last Name

Whitlow

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Carver Elementary School

Fellrath Junior High School

Inkster High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any, with sufficient notice

First Name

Woodrow

Birth City, State, Country

Inkster

HM ID

WHI17

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

College students, adults, STEM faculty and students, technical companies and organizations

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $3,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Islands

Favorite Quote

Highlight a player when you see him in the street.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

12/13/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Aerospace engineer and federal government administrator Woodrow Whitlow, Jr. (1952 - ) has worked for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for over thirty years serving as Associate Administrator for Mission Support at NASA Headquarters and director of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

Employment

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) John H. Glenn Research Center

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory John F. Kennedy Space Center

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Woodrow Whitlow's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Woodrow Whitlow lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his mother, Willie Mae Whitlow

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Woodrow Whitlow describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Woodrow Whitlow describes the history of Inkster, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Woodrow Whitlow describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Woodrow Whitlow describes how the space race inspired him

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his childhood interest in sports

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his interest in science and in space

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his experience at Inkster High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the 1967 Detroit riots

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his exposure to Detroit-area museums

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his family's educational pursuits

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the 1969 moon landing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his and others' reactions to Dr. King's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about Star Trek

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his first impression of Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his experience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the role of church in his life

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his doctoral research on unstable transonic flow

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his hiring at NASA's Langley Research Center

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the influence of Katherine G. Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about Harriett Jenkins

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his work at NASA's Langley Research Center

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the importance of space exploration in 1979

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about transonic flow and aircraft safety

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about Guion Bluford's space flight

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about wanting to become an astronaut

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his work on computer models and his desire to become an astronaut

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about NASA's Challenger disaster

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the politics of space exploration

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his efforts to attract minority students to science

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about becoming the U.S. Black Engineer of the Year

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about Charles Bolden and Mae Jemison

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about greater acceptance of minorities at NASA

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his work as the Director of the Critical Technologies Division

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his work at the John Glenn Research Center

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the future of aircraft engineering

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his work at the Glenn Research Center

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about honors that he has received

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Woodrow Whitlow describes a typical day at work

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Woodrow Whitlow describes his contributions as a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about the end of NASA's shuttle program

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Woodrow Whitlow shares his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Woodrow Whitlow talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Woodrow Whitlow describes his experience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Woodrow Whitlow talks about his work at the Glenn Research Center
Transcript
Tell us your study schedule. You just told it to me off camera but--$$Oh, I would--of course I'm not an early morning person so I would try not--and the institute would open at nine o'clock so I'd try not to get 9 o'clock classes. But you know I would take the classes during the day and if there were breaks I would study. But then when I get back to my dorm room at night I would typically study to you know two, three, four o'clock in the morning every night. So it was--worked hard. But then on Thursday nights I would just study all night, wouldn't go to bed and because I knew if just make it through the classes on Friday then I had you know the weekend without having to go to classes to, you know to recover. So make it through Friday, study some. Friday evening then you know just kind of take a break on Friday nights and you know maybe go to a movie, go somewhere. You know we had the movie series on campus, go to a movie just rest and relax and then sleep late Saturday. And we'd go to the soul food, normally we'd go to the soul food restaurant on Saturday in Boston, Bob the chef. So we'd go down there. That was the big thing, we'd go to Bob the chef on Saturday, get you a good soul food meal and then come back and maybe, and start picking up the routine. If not Saturday night then first thing Sunday morning because--depending on you know what you had to turn in on Monday, you know maybe pick it up Saturday night. If not, maybe rest a little bit Saturday and then get up Sunday and start running again.$$Okay. Now who are some of your instructors there and yeah who are some of the instructors that you remember and what were they teaching you?$$I can remember of course Wes Harris was--he you now he taught fluid dynamics in the aeronautics department. But when he came I was--he came in my junior year and so we started working together. And so he ended up being my Masters Thesis supervisor and my Doctoral Thesis chairman. And so he's someone who really--he's the one who really taught me about academic excellence and so I remember him. And then people like Eugene Covert who taught aerodynamics, Judd Baron taught gas dynamics, Jack Kerabrock (ph.) taught propulsion systems, Jim Marr (ph.) taught structures. So these are all the professors in the aero department. And then there was Professor Orzag in the math department taught the advanced calculus courses and then the other--there was one guy, I did a concentration, under--humanities concentration in psychology. And there was one, Professor Hans Torber (ph.) I can remember. And I did it, I picked, I had to pick some humanities concentration and the reason I picked psychology is I had heard about this Hans Torber, this psychology professor. And I said well maybe he can make humanities interesting. So I--and he did. So I took--and he taught brain science. Then I took learning theory and then another, some other psychology courses. But those are some of the ones, you know--and then all the guys in the aero department, Professor Widnall and--Sheila Widnall [Sheila Marie Evans Widnall]--she actually became secretary of the air force for a while before she went back to MIT. And I talked about Professor Marr and instructors and just a great group of guys in the aero department who were Course 16 as we affectionately refer to it as. We don't do names at MIT, we do numbers.$$Really? You--$$Yeah, a course--$$People have numbers?$$Yeah, I can tell you the courses I took like my math course, I took 8--physics course is 801, 802, 803. My--because physics is Course 8. My math courses I took 1801, 1802 and 1803. And then I took advanced calculus, 18075, 18076. And then I took in Double E, a course 6.14 and the office is in Building 37 and the other aero is Building 35 and some was in Building 9. And so I don't know the names of a lot of stuff at MIT but I can tell you the numbers associated with it.$$Okay. Now what was--now was it exciting being around so many people with the same kind of focus of you know--?$$It was motivating, exciting and you know and you know it--and it, it really was. I'm at MIT, you know, you heard--I didn't know what MIT was but you know when you hear people talk about bright people, say oh yeah, he's going to go to MIT. Or you watch, you see it on TV, even now you say oh yeah, well this person's from MIT. And so yeah to be there in that environment--and at first it was a little intimidating. And you know the one thing, my freshman year you know these, hear these students at the other table and they were talking about some math thing and then they pulled out, a napkin out and they start writing on this napkin and then they left. And we were all sitting around and I picked the napkin up and I looked at it and I said this not even writing. Even I know that this is not correct what's on this napkin. So I said well, yeah well I can make it through here. So I went from, I'm going to go to MIT for one year and transfer to ended up staying there for nine years.$Okay. What were some of the highlights of your term as director of the NASA Glenn Research Center?$$Well when I became center director we really, the agency made a big change in direction and to be a viable center, we had to make a big change in direction. So leading that change to make us, to increase our emphasis on more space systems research and development to--we won major roles in what was then the Project Constellation which was the program to--Program Constellation to put people permanently on the moon and to go to Mars and so our work in developing a service module which would be the power, propulsion and communications for the capsule that the astronauts would ride in. Our role, went in a role there, went in a role and developed and upper state simulator for a test vehicle and that vehicle actually flew. So to be at the Kennedy Space Center when that thing lifted off with that upper stage that had been built by Glenn employees on it, that was a very proud moment and securing roles in things like electric propulsion for deep space missions and while continuing to excel in our traditional areas in aeronautics. And those were really high points is to see the center make this big turn and do it successfully and to increase the business base you know from less than 400 million to near 800 million dollars a year, that's--those are highlights.$$Okay. Now you were there until, for about five years, right?$$Yeah, I was there nearly years again and that was as center director.

Larry Brown

Larry Thomas Brown, president of Ottawa Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and Kia of Ottawa, Illinois, and former owner of Star Toyota in Merrillville, Indiana and Landmark Ford in Niles, Illinois, is one of the first of two African Americans to serve on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s board of directors. Brown was born in Inkster, Michigan on April 21, 1947 to Mattie Lewis Brown and Nander Brown, a mechanic and preacher. Early in Brown’s life, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan where Brown began his education in the public school system.

After graduating from Western High School in Detroit, Brown served as sergeant in the United States Air Force from 1965 to 1969. He then returned to Michigan where he attended Wayne County Community College in Detroit while working at Ford Motor Company. In August of 1971, he married Angelina Caldwell Brown. He continued his education during the first years of his marriage, receiving his B.S. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1973. Brown earned his M.A. degree in management and supervision from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan in 1979 and also graduated from the Ford Motor Company Dealer Training Program. He left Ford Motor Company to start his own dealership in 1985.

In addition to serving on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s board of directors, Brown served as chairman of its Dealership Operations and Industry Relations Committees and the Executive Board and Public Affairs Committees. Brown also served Ford-Lincoln-Mercury Minority Dealers Association as president, chairman, vice president of Ford Division, vice president of Customer Service Division and as treasurer. He is past president and chairman of National Association of Minority Automobile Dealerships and remains a board member.

Brown’s awards and honors include Operation PUSH’s Crystal Spirit Award, the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealership’s Jesse Jones Vision Award, Dollars and Sense magazine’s America’s Best and Brightest Award, and America’s Outstanding Dealer Award. He was inducted into Western High School’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Accession Number

A2005.193

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/10/2005

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Schools

Western High School

Western International High School

Chaney Elementary School

Condon Intermediate School

Wayne State University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Larry

Birth City, State, Country

Inkster

HM ID

BRO29

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Only if travel is required - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe, Arizona

Favorite Quote

Be What You Want To Be, Believe In Yourself, Do Not Accept 'No' As An Answer, And Just Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

4/21/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Blueberries

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur Larry Brown (1947 - ) is president of Ottawa Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and Kia in Ottawa, Illinois. He is also one of the first two African Americans to serve on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s board of directors.

Employment

Ford Motor Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:444,8:1110,19:1554,29:10557,155:14124,202:14733,210:17865,264:35596,535:43058,654:57493,860:63930,922:64865,941:65885,958:67670,1002:77240,1122:80705,1186:81783,1205:89886,1291:91071,1336:94863,1446:95574,1458:97470,1484:104240,1571$0,0:1767,37:6417,129:6789,134:8184,153:12030,203:12450,209:13290,223:13626,228:14130,237:23958,418:25386,433:25722,438:26310,446:42900,551:44212,579:45114,592:59372,780:59716,785:84910,1129:85270,1134:87250,1166:87610,1171:90284,1186:94908,1308:95180,1313:110832,1507:111188,1512:111544,1517:112256,1526:115015,1566:116172,1581:116795,1588:122669,1665:128430,1670:128766,1675:129186,1681:129522,1686:131454,1713:132126,1726:133470,1748:133806,1754:134730,1765:135402,1774:149097,1898:161960,2034:162310,2041:162800,2049:164760,2091:167560,2160:167840,2165:171110,2186
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Larry Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Larry Brown lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Larry Brown describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Larry Brown describes his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Larry Brown describes his parent's relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Larry Brown describes his father's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Larry Brown describes his parents and how he resembles them

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Larry Brown describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Larry Brown describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Larry Brown lists the schools he attended

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Larry Brown describes his paper route

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Larry Brown remembers living near Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Larry Brown describes himself as a young boy

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Larry Brown describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Larry Brown recalls his experience in school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Larry Brown remembers attending his father's church

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Larry Brown remembers Thanksgiving celebrations in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Larry Brown remembers losing weight as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Larry Brown describes his activities at Detroit's Western High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Larry Brown remembers joining the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Larry Brown remembers his time in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Larry Brown remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Larry Brown remembers attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Larry Brown describes his aspirations as a young man

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Larry Brown explains why he left journalism for the automobile industry

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Larry Brown remembers being accepted to the Ford Minority Dealer Training Program

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Larry Brown describes the Ford Minority Dealer Training Program

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Larry Brown remembers earning his master's degree from Central Michigan University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Larry Brown remembers his first dealership

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Larry Brown describes the Ottawa, Illinois area

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Larry Brown lists the car dealerships he has owned

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Larry Brown reflects upon his experience in the automobile industry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Larry Brown remembers being elected as a director for the National Automotive Dealers Association

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Larry Brown lists his role models

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Larry Brown shares advice for aspiring automobile dealers

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Larry Brown describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Larry Brown offers advice to young people

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Larry Brown reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Larry Brown describes his family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Larry Brown reflects upon the progress of black dealers in the automotive industry

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Larry Brown describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Larry Brown describes his paper route
Larry Brown explains why he left journalism for the automobile industry
Transcript
And the sights and sounds, I always had a paper route I had a paper route at the age of twelve and I kept that paper route until I was eighteen. And with that, that was how I really kind of grew up to develop into a responsible, sort of of a entrepreneur kind of thinking individual. The smell is at the time you know you had the Detroit Tigers you know we used really be into the Tigers and the Lions [Detroit Lions]. The Pistons [Detroit Pistons] weren't a force then and hockey was not something that we were interes- but it was mostly the Detroit Tigers. So I kind of grew around, grew up around the paper station. You know where I had the guys that you would throw your papers and then you would meet back at the station. So kind of how I grew up in Detroit [Michigan]. And by doing that I allowed me to sort of develop an independent sense of, of having my own money, you know. Coming from a family again of thirteen, I didn't have to go to my father [Nander Brown] and say okay do, do I have any allowance money, 'cause we didn't get allowance. So I was able to have my own money and sort of spend the way that I wanted to without having any restrictions. So therefore that was something that I truly, truly enjoyed as growing up. And other boys would have paper routes as well, you know we kind of had our own little club. You know where we could buy our own bikes at the time, and buy a baseball glove, 'cause these were the things that were extra that my family just couldn't afford. So with a paper route it allowed me to do those kinds of things.$So how did it go, I mean you were in journalism, you're not a journalist now, so what happened along the way?$$Well, I, I did do some radio at the Wayne State [Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan] radio station and I also worked a while at the, at the Michigan Chronicle, so.$$Now did you do news on the radio?$$I did news, right and I think it was WDET [WDET Radio, Detroit, Michigan], I think whatever Wayne's local stations call letters were. And I did, did some news reporting for the Michigan Chronicle.$$Okay.$$And along the way as, as I indicated as I was going to school I was also working at Ford Motor Company [Dearborn, Michigan]. And some opportunity prevailed for me there. And so that's sort of how I got involved in automobile business. And kind of shied away from the journalism piece of it.$$Okay, now was the, is it--what happened first did you, did you decide to go into business first or did the opportunities present themselves at Ford first?$$Well it simultaneously I was working at Ford while I was going to school, I was part-time. And so I got married [to Angelina Caldwell] 1971 and they had kept asking me did I want to go full time when positions became available. And I kept saying no but and then we I got married in '71 [1971] I said I gotta get something a little more stable. And at that time that's when I decided to go full-time and be a full-time employee with Ford Motor Company. And I was hired by the Dealer Computer Services Division, which at the time they sold computer systems to Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealers throughout the United States. So I was sort of like worked in the administrative office analyzing data that would come over the--this system. So that I was a system analyst at the time, computer I analyzed data. So I stayed in that position with Ford until 1979.$$Now you were systems analyst for?$$Basically for dealer computer services, I, I analyzed data that came from the computer system that was that were in the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. It was not like a typical system analyst that you would recognize a system analyst. But that was sort, sort of what I did, and I stayed with them 'til '79 [1979].