Committee recommends building to be named after astronaut engineering alumnus

February 20, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A building at Innovation Park at Penn State was recommended to be named in honor of Dr. Guion S. Bluford Jr., Penn State aerospace engineering alumnus and internationally renowned astronaut and engineering leader.

The Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning today (Feb. 20) recommended the proposed naming, which will be forwarded to the University’s Board of Trustees on Friday.  

“This building will serve as a living symbol of Dr. Bluford’s contributions across many disciplines but especially to his innovation in the development of space systems technology,” said Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. “The building name acknowledges and honors Dr. Bluford's distinguished achievements and historical significance, while also signifying Penn State's commitment to excellence in space systems across many domains including aerospace engineering, systems design and astrophysics, and active commitment to mentoring, equity and inclusion.” 

Bluford graduated from Penn State in 1964 with a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering and obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1979 and became the first African American in space with his first mission on the eighth NASA space shuttle mission (STS-8) in 1983. He retired from NASA in 1993 and went on to hold many leadership roles within the industry — including vice president of the aerospace sector of the Federal Data Corporation, vice president of Microgravity Research and Development and Operations for Northrup Grumman, and president of Aerospace Technology Inc.

Bluford also served in an advisory capacity to NASA’s aeronautics research and space flight programs. From 1993 to 1998, he served on the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board; from 1997 to 2002, as the director of the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Foundation; from 1995 to 2001, as the director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Board; from 2000 to 2006, as the director of the U.S. Space Foundation; from 1999 to 2008, as the director of the Aerospace Corporation Board, the federally funded research and development center focused on spaceflight. He also served as the executive director of the Investigative Activities for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003. 

Even before his selection as a NASA astronaut at the age of 37, Bluford’s contributions to aerospace engineering were recognized with commendations, including the National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award, the Mervin E. Gross Award for exceptional academic achievement and numerous military awards and decorations for his service in the Vietnam War. Subsequently, he has received multiple awards corresponding to his service as a NASA astronaut and 14 honorary doctorates for his public service work as a leader in aerospace engineering.

In addition to his professional achievements, Bluford has served as an advocate for inspiring underrepresented groups at both Penn State and on a national level through his service with the Society of Distinguished Alumni and the Committee on Minority Activities. He continues to stay involved with the Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, visiting annually to provide outreach to underrepresented groups.

The proposed building that will hold Bluford’s name is located at 230 Innovation Blvd. at University Park, and houses the Center for Innovation Metal Processing through Direct Digital Deposition. A collaborative effort between the Applied Research Laboratory, the College of Engineering and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, this center facilitates the research and development of several additive manufacturing systems for the benefit of broad academic, government and industrial projects, as well as a state-of-the-art design studio and prototyping laboratory. 

Last Updated February 24, 2020