Aerospace engineer and federal government administrator Woodrow Whitlow, Jr. was born on December 13, 1952 in Inkster, Michigan. A quick-learner, he excelled at math and science. Whitlow aspired to be a chemist until space missions in the 1960s captured his imagination, changing his career goal to astronaut. Whitlow received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, 1975 and 1979, respectively.
Whitlow's long career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began in 1979, when he was hired as a research scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. At Langley, he specialized in fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and aeroelasticity. He rose quickly to become a senior research scientist and headed various specialty branches in astrophysics and aeronautics. In 1994, Whitlow became the Director of the Critical Technologies Division in the Office of Aeronautics at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He then moved to the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio in 1998 where he served as the director of research and technology, among other positions. Whitlow served as Director of the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center in 2003 and oversaw launch-related services and activities until 2005 when he was appointed to Director of the NASA Glenn Research Center where he was responsible for organizing and overseeing mission-related activities at the Center. In 2010, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named Whitlow the Associate Administrator for Mission Support at NASA Headquarters. Throughout his career, Whitlow has written nearly forty technical papers, most in the areas of fluid dynamics and aeroelasticity.
Whitlow has received both NASA's Exceptional Service Honor Medal and its Equal Opportunity Honor Medal. In 1993, he was named an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Associate Fellow and in 2010, he was named a fellow. Whitlow has received numerous business and scientific accolades including the U.S. Black Engineer of the Year in Government, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers William Sweet Smith Prize, and the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive. Whitlow and his wife have two daughters and two granddaughters.
Woodrow Whitlow, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 3, 2012.