11/19/2012 15:38:51

Caltech Elects New Member to Board of Trustees

Aerospace leader David W. Thompson (MS '78) has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Four years after Thompson graduated from Caltech with a degree in aeronautics, he cofounded Orbital Sciences Corporation, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The three-person start-up has grown into one of the world's leading space-technology enterprises, with nearly 4,000 employees, $1.5 billion in annual revenues, and a track record of having developed and manufactured more than 800 rockets and satellites for scientific, defense, and commercial use. Today, Thompson is its chairman, president, and CEO. Before cofounding Orbital, he served as special assistant to the president of Hughes Aircraft Company's Missile Systems Group and was a project manager and engineer for advanced rocket engines at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. As a Caltech graduate student, he worked on the Viking missions—the first successful Mars landing missions—at JPL. As an undergraduate student at MIT, he spent summers working on Space Shuttle projects at NASA's Langley Research Center and Johnson Space Center.

As a result of his work at Orbital, Thompson has won the National Medal of Technology, the National Air and Space Museum Trophy from the Smithsonian Institution, the International von Kármán Wings Award from the Aerospace Historical Society, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, and the World Technology Award for Space from the World Technology Network. A fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he served as its president in 2009–2010. He is also a fellow of the American Astronautical Society and the Royal Aeronautical Society and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics. He received Caltech's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009 and Harvard's Alumni Achievement Award in 1999, and he served on MIT's Visiting Committee in Aeronautics and Astronautics from 2007 until this year.

Thompson received a bachelor's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 1976, an MS in aeronautics from Caltech in 1978, and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1981.

He and his wife, Catherine, live in Reston, Virginia. Their daughter, Maggie, is in her freshman year at Princeton.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of Caltech. The Board is led by David L. Lee, chair, and vice chair Ronald K. Linde, and is currently composed of 44 trustees, 13 senior trustees, 25 life members, and one honorary life member. 

Written by Ann Motrunich