Indiana Tech Alumni, Donors, & Friends: Featured Stories: November 2010
A shining example of living, learning, and leading
Living and learning in Fort Wayne at Indiana Tech from 1954 – 1958 led to 50 years of service and leadership at NASA for alumnus Russ Rhodes (BSAE 1958).
Written by: Mike Peterson, alumni director / November 2010

In order to support his education at Tech, Rhodes worked a variety of important jobs for Indiana Tech at a whopping $1.25 per hour. Some of the more interesting projects on which he worked included: maintenance work on the Allen County Courthouse clock; promotion of night classes through meetings with industry executives; helping raise $300,000 of matching funds for the new Dana Science Building; setting up, operating, and training others in the use of “offset presses” for Tech’s printed materials; and working his way up through Indiana Tech’s Research and Development department to become project engineer over the magnet wire test equipment.

After earning his degree in aeronautical engineering, Russ was drafted into the army. Upon completion of basic training, he was assigned to the Missile Firing Laboratory of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA). Even though the laboratory was based in Huntsville, Alabama, most of the missile firing activities took place in Cape Canaveral, Florida, which is where Russ was moved. From the designing process all the way through the testing and operation phases, Russ was fully involved with the entire development of the ballistic missiles or rockets.

The Missile Firing Laboratory of ABMA was transferred to NASA during the early days of Russ’s career, which made him an employee of NASA. This would be the beginning of 50 years of service as a NASA engineer. The longevity and success of his career with NASA is an outstanding endorsement of his education and ingenuity, as well as the integrity that Russ displayed on a daily basis. There was a short period of time when Russ left NASA to work with Fairchild Aircraft in Hagerstown, MD, but he soon was drawn back to Cape Canaveral and NASA. Russ is thankful for his time in Hagerstown, however, as this is where he met the woman who was to become his bride.

Over the years, Russ has had the esteemed privilege to be engaged with many exciting projects as a systems engineer and even served in the role of engineering manager. The list of projects and programs in which he has played a major role is quite impressive: Pershing, Redstone, Jupiter, Saturn 1/1B, Saturn V/Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle. Currently, he is working within the Constellation program.

Russ has a continued interest in space propulsion and space transportation systems. In fact, he has co-authored a large number of technical papers and led technical studies that focused on the cost reduction of space travel. Russ is also a charter member of the Space Propulsion Synergy Team and its Steering Committee, emphasizing strategic aspects of future advanced space transportation systems technology with the goal of more affordable access to space.

With a resume like this, it is clear that Russ has turned his learning at Indiana Tech into quite a living experience. And, it is also evident that his leadership has been proven time and again through his passionate and productive continuing career with NASA. So, today we celebrate and salute Indiana Tech alumnus Russ Rhodes for 50 years of outstanding service!

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