The U.S. Navy sent George Gleghorn to CU in 1944-and into an accelerated three-year baccalaureate program in electrical engineering. "We were going to help run ships," he says, "and we needed to learn how in a hurry."
He graduated in 1947 with special honors. "Colorado and CU were good for me," he continues. "I received a good education and encouragement to continue with my academic work."
He went on to the California Institute of Technology where' he earned an M.S.E.E. in 1948 and a Ph.D., cum laude, in electrical engineering and math in 1955.
In the interim, Gleghorn worked for Hughes Aircraft and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and served as a naval communications officer during the Korean War. He joined TRW (then Ramo-Wooldridge) in 1954, starting a career in the space industry at about the same time that industry was beginning.
At Caltech, Gleghorn had discovered a consuming interest in control systems, and this became his specialty. It was a specialty Of critical importance to the burgeoning missile and space industry, and Gleghorn played increasingly important roles in developing early satellites and spacecraft programs and in building some of the first hardware that went into space.
In 1957, TRW designed, developed, and launched a reentry vehicle for the Air Force in just five months. Gleghorn managed attitude control, integration, and testing for this vehicle, which became the Able second stage booster rocket.
Able helped propel NASNs first spacecraft, Pioneer I (also constructed by TRW) into orbit. Gleghorn served as project manager for that effort and was subsequently responsible for construction, vehicle integration, and launch operations for six other early space probes, including Explorer VI and Pioneer 5. He was also project manager for the Orbiting Geophysical Observatories, NASA's first large-scale satellites.
In the mid-60s, Gleghorn was given responsibility for the technical integrity and operations of such long-lived spacecraft as Vela and Pioneers 6 through 11. The youngest Vela functioned for 15 years; Pioneer 6 is still operational after 20 years in space; Pioneers 10 and 11 are performing beyond their design lives and, indeed, beyond the solar system itself. Both have or will leave it behind in the 1980s. "It's fun," Gleghorn comments, "to know that something you've touched and handled and helped build is that far away."
As his responsibilities have broadened, he has contributed to the increasingly sophisticated design of deployable structures, attitude control, electrical power systems, and launch and mission operations. In all, he has contributed engineering and management expertise to some 150 unmanned spacecraft, including many industry firsts.
Since 1984, he has served as vice president and director, Product Integrity, of TRW's Space and Technology Group, with responsibilities for design integration, reliability, and product integrity of all TRW spacecraft systems. There is no margin for error in space, and spacecraft built under Gleghorn's direction have consistently performed beyond expectations and outlived their design lives.
Gleghorn has not forgotten or neglected his ties with CU. He appreciates the sound academic beginning he got here and, besides, "you can't get Boulder out of your blood."
He serves on CU's Space Advisory Board, which contributes to the University's own important space activities, and is, as he puts it, a "junior member" of the College's Engineering Development Council. In both roles, he emphasizes his belief in the importance of effective academic/ industrial liaison.
George Gleghom is also concerned with solving very terrestrial problems, including how to attract more young people into engineering, how to encourage more minorities to enter the profession, and how to generally improve the breadth and quality of engineering education. "Considering the continuous explosion of technology," he says, "it's hard enough to get engineering students trained in the fundamentals of their particular specialty, let alone management and communication."
He and his wife, Barbara, a 1946 CU alumna, have received a number of local honors including being named Palos Verdes citizens of the year in 1980 for service to their community. They have three children.
Among numerous professional affiliations, Gleghorn is a 20-year member of the IEEE and a Fellow of the AIAA.