John Stuart Chapman
Class of 1969
I have known John Chapman since 1957, when we were assigned to the same second grade class at Pine Street Elementary School. Even as a seven year old, John's interest in engineering - and more specifically aviation - was obvious. John never missed the opportunity to research aircraft and study manned flight. Every science project, essay, poem, research paper, show and tell, presentation, drawing, painting and sculpture - from that tender age through high school - was based on aviation.
A close friend through our high school years, John and I regularly attended Redbird basketball games and other school events, followed by a mandatory visit to the Beacon, where we sat in his car, drinking hot chocolate and watching television (remember this was 1967, long before car adapters were available). John conceived and constructed a device which permitted him to connect his television set to the cigarette lighter in his car... At the time, I thought nothing of it... That was John... That was just what John did.
He was smart - very smart - and his passion for engineering and aviation led him to acquire his private pilot's license during his junior year at Spartanburg High School. At that time he also began working at the Spartanburg Municipal Airport whenever there was a break from school and in the summer.
After graduation from Spartanburg High School in 1969, John attended Georgia Tech, where he initially planned to major in aeronautical engineering. In short order, however, John became disenchanted with the theoretical nature of problem-solving within the aeronautical engineering curriculum and changed his major to industrial engineering. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1973 and served in private industry for several years before joining NASA in 1980, as an engineer in the Solid Rocket Booster Project Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.
John has had a storied career of nearly 30 years with the Marshall Space Flight Center, where he is now manager of the Space Shuttle External Tank Project Office. He has served in his current position since November 2005, overseeing one of NASA's highest profile projects. He manages an annual budget of more than $300 million and a workforce of more than 2,000 government and contractor technical and engineering experts. He is responsible for the requirements definition, design, development, manufacturing, assembly, testing and flight performance of the space shuttle external tank.
From 2004 to 2005, he was chief engineer for shuttle propulsion projects in the Marshall Center's Engineering Directorate. He was technical assistant to the manager of Marshall's Space Transportation Directorate from 2001 to 2004. During this time, he completed a year-long rotational assignment at NASAâ€™s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
John has been involved with the shuttle program almost since its inception, beginning in the early 1970s when he worked in private industry. He has held nearly every post in the Shuttle Propulsion Office, including deputy project manager and business manager of each propulsion element. He also served as solid rocker booster chief engineer.
In October, 2008, John was recognized by President Bush for his outstanding achievements at NASA with a Presidential Rank Award â€“ one of the highest honors given to career federal employees. The award is given annually to a select group of senior federal executives for outstanding leadership and service in some of the most critical positions in federal government. Executives who have consistently demonstrated strength, integrity and commitment to public service in their careers are nominated for the award by members of their agency. Review boards of private citizens refer a select few to the president for approval.
In addition to the Presidential Rank Award, John has received numerous honors and awards during his NASA career, most recently the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in June 2008. He has participated in various executive-level training courses, and is the co-author of several technical publications.
Even with his outstanding curriculum vitae and his many accomplishments, John is still curious and approachable and funny. The years of increasing responsibility and recognition have done nothing to diminish his scientific curiosity, nor have they distorted his sense of humility, or blunted his passion for understanding the possibilities of manned flight.
John Stuart Chapman has used his intellectual curiosity and creativity, which were nurtured through his years the Spartanburg school system, to make lasting contributions to our nation's strength and to the future of aviation and space exploration. He is truly an outstanding graduate of Spartanburg high School and should be recognized.
Jane Neumeyer Bardwell, Spartanburg High School Class of 1969
2703 East Broad Street
Bexley, Ohio 43209-1844
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