The Circle Continues
By Dan Dumbacher|June 2023
On a clear, starry night in May, we continued a decades-old tradition – inducting a new class of AIAA Fellows. With this ceremony, we celebrated three more accomplished professionals who were added to the storied list of AIAA Honorary Fellows, now totaling 241. We also celebrated 28 individuals joining the rank of AIAA Fellow, now totaling more than 2,000. This group of accomplished members represents an incredible body of work, advancing the state of the art in aerospace science and technology over the course of their careers. They have made a lasting difference in our world. That’s what a career in aerospace does. Aerospace shapes the future for all of us.
In AIAA President Laura McGill’s address to the new class of AIAA Fellows and Honorary Fellows, there was one comment in particular that resonated with me. Her words sum up the essence of AIAA membership as a circle:
“I ask our new Fellows and Honorary Fellows to look back over the long reach of your career and remember someone who mentored you, who made you want to be part of our aerospace community, someone who pushed you to achieve, to learn, to question – and who helped you believe in yourself. Now, you must be that person to others. Be the mentor, be the encourager, and be the inspiration. Please accept this challenge as a professional responsibility.”
When each of us advances, we take on this mantle of service to those who follow us. Today’s leaders inspire and guide the next generation of our community, for they will become tomorrow’s leaders. And so on. The circle continues.
As I listened to the remarks made by the new Fellows and Honorary Fellows, many of them included a nod to a key mentor, professor, or colleague. They looked back on their careers and could clearly remember and name individuals who were their champion, coach, encourager, guide, or inspirer. I deeply appreciate my own personal mentors – Bob Ryan, Otto Goetz, Joe Lombardo, J. Wayne Littles, John Dumbacher – and others who challenged, encouraged, and helped many continue to build for the future.
This year, we have been witnessing this circle of mentorship and encouragement in action. Accomplished professional members took hands-on roles that influenced and inspired our student members during the valuable Regional Student Conferences and the popular Design/Build/Fly (DBF) Competition. It has been a privilege and pleasure to attend some of the conferences and DBF to see this circle in action. From university faculty advisors, to judges, to organizing committees – AIAA members have stepped up at these events, volunteering their time and talents in support of the learning process for our student members. These “steps up” are more valuable than we may ever know in the moment.
While our student members are gaining practical experience presenting their research findings and receiving valuable feedback from professionals in the aerospace community, they are becoming part of the community. They are being included in meaningful ways, so they will in turn include others who follow them someday. You can meet the top winners of the Regional Student Conferences during the 2024 AIAA SciTech Forum, 8–12 January 2024, Orlando, Florida, and see for yourself what’s in store for the future of our community.
In our community, we know there are new and difficult technology challenges to solve if we are to improve life here on Earth. We will be flying more sustainably, addressing climate change, and creating new opportunities by extending the human neighborhood to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Our greatest hope is to continue bringing along the next generation of innovators who will shape the future of aerospace for the benefit of ALL. The circle continues.
Meet the members of the Class of 2023 AIAA Fellows and Honorary Fellows at aiaa.org/news.
Enjoy the photos capturing the 2023 AIAA Fellows Induction ceremony in the online photo album.