From co-op student to deputy director
Carolyn Griner, one of NASAs female pioneers, to retire from Marshall Center
In 1964, Carolyn Griner was one of only three women in technical positions at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. outnumbered by male engineers at a ratio of more than 1,000 to one.
Today, after 36 years of helping America reach new frontiers in space exploration, Griner, now the deputy director of the Marshall Center, has announced plans to retire from NASA at the end of the year.
Griner will take into retirement many history-making memories, including the liftoff of the mammoth Saturn 5 rocket that carried Americans to the Moon; the launch of the first elements of America's first experimental space station, Skylab; the flight of the first and 100 subsequent Space Shuttle missions; and delivering science in space on Spacelab missions all efforts in which she played major roles.
Noting Griners planned retirement, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin presented her with her second Distinguished Service Medal NASAs highest honor. "For the eight and a half years Ive been administrator of this agency, whenever theres an assignment that other people run from, Carolyn goes for it," Goldin said, citing Griners numerous contributions for "this agency and this country."
As deputy director since 1994, Griner assists the Marshall Center director in managing a broad range of propulsion, space science and materials research and development activities in support of the space program.
Griner has come a long way since setting her sights in the 1960s on the then predominantly male field of engineering. Although it was uncommon to find a woman in a technical position, she said her gender didnt make a difference. "With everything we wanted to accomplish at Marshall, we all needed four sets of hands."
However, Griner believes the arrival of more female engineers and scientists in the workplace makes it easier for todays professional women to network and find role models.
During her career at NASA, she witnessed other changes, including widespread advances in technology and changes in management styles.
Among the most striking change, says Griner, was the advent of computers and calculators. "When you look at what we accomplished with manual tools like the slide rule, its really amazing," she says. "Now, I probably have more computing power on my desktop computer than we had in 1965 in all of NASA."
In addition to technological advances, she has seen an evolution in management styles: "There is more of a participatory environment today. Now, its more common to draw from the talents of people on all levels."
Settling on the "right" time to retire was not an easy matter, Griner says. "I could not make this decision without knowing that Marshall would continue to succeed in meeting the needs of this country. I believe our countrys future in space depends on this Center. It has the vision, the plan, the skills and the people."
"Most of all, I will miss the people," she says. "I was 18 when I came here, and this is family. After so many years, I feel like Im running away from home. I feel privileged to have played a role in what Marshall has accomplished."
Griner joined the space agency in 1964 as a co-op student and progressed to positions of increasing responsibility within several key program areas, including the Space Station Utilization Division at NASA Headquarters and the Spacelab 3 mission.
Prior to being named deputy director, her most significant assignments included serving as director of the Marshall Center Mission Operations Laboratory and managing the Marshall Payload Projects Office. Griner also served as acting director of the Marshall Center for nine months in 1998.
Griners numerous awards include the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive (twice), the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive (twice), the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (twice) and the Distinguished Service Medal (twice).
She has a bachelors degree in astronautical engineering from Florida State University in Tallahassee and completed graduate work in industrial and systems engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Griner attributes much of her success to her family. "To be successful in a two-career family, its been a real partnership with my spouse and children. My husband has been a true partner through thick and thin."
She and her husband, Donald Griner, have three grown children Kimberly Webb, David Griner and Stacy Taylor and two grandchildren.
No decision has been made on who will replace Griner as deputy director.