Published: Feb. 14, 2024

Daryl Bahls
Daryl Bahls, 2024 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award recipient

Engineering Alumni Awards

2024 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award recipient

In 2014, Daryl Bahls (AeroEngr'77) retired from The Boeing Company as a senior space systems engineer and associate technical fellow. He spent his 37-year career with Boeing and Martin Marietta Denver Aerospace as a space system mission analyst and system engineer. During his career, Bahls was fortunate to make contributions to programs ranging from earth resources and communication satellite systems, to launch vehicle development and interplanetary exploration, culminating with critical influences on many national security space programs. These contributions ranged from space flight trajectory optimization, space system architecture and constellation design to space system mission operations. In retirement, his role as the director of analytics for the Merriman Financial Education Foundation allows him to continue to apply his analytical skills by providing individual investors with evidence-based data to use in managing their investment portfolios. 

Bahls was born in 1951 in Chicago and grew up in Iowa and Aurora, Colorado, during the heyday of the early “space race" that showed the way to his life’s work. In 1970, he enrolled at CU Boulder, majoring in aerospace engineering sciences. In 1981, he met his wife, Randy, in Boulder, and they married in Seattle in 1987. Bahls’ uncle, Carl R. Bahls, is also a CU Boulder alumnus — he attended CU on the GI Bill after World War II, graduating in 1948.

From mentoring junior staff members at Boeing to donating books from his personal astrodynamics library at the grand opening of the new Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building at CU Boulder, Bahls has been deeply involved in his communities, sharing his knowledge and resources along the way. His contributions in support of U.S. government defense programs, while often confidential, reflect his dedicated service to the nation. As one of Bahls’ former colleagues notes, “I have seen him explain complex design issues to presidential appointees and senior corporate executives with the same patience and professionalism he would to a junior engineer or review team. To me that exemplifies the integrity of a systems engineer — staying true to the discipline and rigor of the design, no matter where that leads.”

Starting in 2015, Bahls began work with the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences to craft an endowment to fund students working in space mission analysis and design. After collaborating with many, many people at the university, the agreement was completed and signed in 2017. Bahls frequently attends department functions, meets with faculty and students, and offers his insights into industry needs and ways to improve undergraduate and graduate curricula. In 2022, Smead Aerospace named a conference room in the new building on East Campus after him.

Prior to the endowment coming into full effect, a travel funding agreement was also implemented for students to use to present their work in space mission analysis and design to broader national and international peer audiences. This opportunity serves to raise the visibility of not only the individual student’s work, but also of Smead Aerospace and the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research (CCAR). These resources have made it possible for CCAR students to attend top conferences in their field, to share their research, and to get to know the broader research and industry community. Having had the opportunity to personally see how the travel fund has been used and how it impacted students, Bahls is updating the endowment language to take advantage of these lessons learned and to provide better utilization of endowment resources to meet its goals.