Petersen gives a tour to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), left. NASA Photo / Tom Tschida. Here are some thoughts and reactions by people who have worked with Center Director Kevin L. Petersen.
"Kevin's service to NASA exemplifies what's great about the people who make up America's space program - he's served with distinction and helped lead the agency aeronautics efforts into the 21st century."
NASA Acting Administrator
"Kevin is the hardest working, most dedicated Dryden employee I have met. He has been the right person at the right time for the political and economic times we faced over the past 10 years. His efforts in transforming Dryden into a more flexible, dynamic and diverse organization will continue to benefit the center long into the future."
David D. McBride
Dryden Deputy Center Director
"He is intelligent, politically savvy, patient and calm during storms. Nothing ruffles his feathers. He takes it all in stride and that's a valuable quality when facing some of the pretty rough times we've had. Kevin set the tone.
"We were lucky to have him as our center director because he believes in flight research and had invested himself in the center - a whole career. I'll miss a good mentor and friend."
Dryden associate director for management
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is one of the programs that came to Dryden while Petersen was Dryden center director. Above, SOFIA Program Manager Bob Meyer, at left, explains details of the flying infrared observatory to city officials from Palmdale. From right are Bob Curry, Petersen, Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, Palmdale Aviation and Aerospace Commission Chairman Vauneld Adams and Palmdale Councilman Tom Lackey. NASA Photo / Tom Tschida. "He's a very systematic and methodical thinker, who uses good engineering and systems approaches to solving problems.
"What Dryden will miss the most is, Kevin has been a real stabilizing influence for the center. He isn't reactionary. He spends some time and thinks things out. The center has done well under his leadership and grown when it could have been downsized."
SOFIA program manager
"Kevin Petersen has been a close colleague of mine for more than four decades and I have seen him in action as a brilliant flight controls and systems and software engineer, a highly competent line supervisor with flight-critical responsibilities, a sophisticated manager in senior positions, and a strong leader and developer of people.
Kevin has an extraordinary combination of instinct, insight and intelligence. He has led the Dryden Flight Research Center during a time of change, and has succeeded in building a strong and talented workforce that is able to take on anything Dryden is given in aerospace and airborne science projects. He can take great pride in that.
He has a character molded by working in almost every type of job at Dryden, starting as a cooperative education student, and eventually leading some of the most challenging aerospace projects flown by Dryden. He fostered excellent relationships with other NASA centers, the industry and the military. This strong collaborative spirit led to one of the most important high-speed flight programs conducted by NASA in its history, the Hyper-X (X-43), which evaluated an advanced configuration and scramjet at Mach 10. This was a result of model collaboration with NASA Langley and engineering excellence at Dryden. This project was as difficult as any ever done at Dryden.
In addition to his technical and management skills and accomplishments, Kevin has the integrity, honesty, and concern for people that is the difference between a good manager and a great leader. Kevin always placed a high priority on his own family and personal responsibilities, and as a baseball coach for young people, gave a lot to the community, even when he had incredible demands at work.
The NASA of tomorrow will reap the results of his legacy, and Dryden and would be best served to develop, grow and appoint people like Kevin to lead it in the future."
Dryden Center Director, 1990-98
Dryden Center Director Kevin L. Petersen is pictured in the front row at right. The front row also includes, from left, Kenneth Szalai and Bob Kempel. In the back row are, from left, Bob Noscoe, Larry Schilling and Dick Larson. The group earned a Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology back-up control system team award. NASA Photo. "I have found Kevin to be a true leader, and a good manager who has done great things for the center. I believe he is one of Dryden's best center directors. Most people have no concept of the great challenges to the center and Dryden's workforce that Kevin deflected. But he wasn't just reactive. Kevin worked hard to get out in front of potential problems. I believe strongly that many Dryden employees would not have jobs at the center today if it weren't for him. He was extremely effective because of his tireless advocacy, straightforward honesty, technical and managerial credibility, and detailed preparation.
As center director, Kevin built support for the center through networking and one-on-one advocacy rather than a heads-on, steamroller approach. He sacrificed a lot of his personal time to get to know the people needed as allies for the center. Kevin was always, ALWAYS prepared and usually knew more about a subject than the people he was meeting with. When the timing was right, he would make his case with support from many of the decision-makers already in hand. This approach is both time-consuming and very effective. To see the results, just look around at Dryden's facilities and programs. Kevin is a man of action who tries to be proactive instead of reactive and he has positioned Dryden for a bright future.
Kevin has a very human side that most people rarely get to see. He really cares about the Dryden family and the individuals who make it up. When he would learn of a personal tragedy or health problems, Kevin was often visibly shaken. You could see the concern on his face. And, he would ask us to see if there was a way the center could help. In my own case, I was acting Deputy Director when I found out I had prostate cancer. Even though I was in the middle of a major action item from (NASA) Headquarters, Kevin told me not to worry about work and to make health my priority."
Former Associate Center Director for Operations
"His contributions at the helm of Dryden over the years have been truly significant in keeping the center at the forefront of aerospace flight research, test and development, both nationally and internationally. Dryden has been extremely fortunate to have someone who has come up through the ranks and understands not only the critical technology but also the complex personnel issues and expertise required to keep Dryden both competitive and productive in a very difficult time and environment."
Retired Dryden Aerospace Projects director