For release: 02/18/03
Release #: 03-028
Marshall Center Director Art Stephenson has received the 2003 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Award. Cited for his "genuine embrace of diversity," Stephenson was presented the award Jan. 20 during an annual ceremony to honor the slain civil rights leader. Stephenson is the first Marshall Center director to receive the prestigious award.Photo: Stephenson (NASA/MSFC)
Art Stephenson, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has received the 2003 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Award, given by the Huntsville chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Stephenson, cited for his "genuine embrace of diversity," was presented the award Jan. 20 in Huntsville, during an annual ceremony - the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast -- to honor the slain civil rights leader. He is the first Marshall Center director to receive the prestigious award.
The annual unity breakfast was sponsored by the Delta Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha -- an organization dedicated to promoting higher education, fellowship and community involvement. It is an annual event to celebrate King's life and honor those who carry on his legacy. This year, more than 1,300 people attended the event.
"I have always tried to live my life by faith and fairness - believing in the value of all persons, and striving to treat each person with dignity and respect," Stephenson said at the event, when accepting the award. "I will be the first to admit that if this were as easy for each of us as we all wish it were, it would not be a basic tenet or commandment of every religion in the world. Neither would there be so many laws on the subject.
"But while changing hearts and minds about others is sometimes an almost insurmountable challenge," added Stephenson, "changed behavior toward others can lead to changed hearts and minds. So we must, at every opportunity, seek to 'include'."
Since joining the Marshall Center as its director in 1998, Stephenson has initiated cooperative efforts between Marshall and two historically black institutions in Huntsville - Alabama A&M University and Oakwood College. Marshall's co-op programs with those institutions include scholarships, internships and work-study opportunities for students. Stephenson also serves as an advisor to both schools.
As leader of the Marshall Center, Stephenson oversees work on some of NASA's principal programs and initiatives, such as reusable launch vehicle development, advanced space transportation systems, Space Shuttle propulsion, payload operations aboard the International Space Station, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory - the world's most powerful X-ray telescope.
Stephenson's career began in 1964 at TRW in Redondo Beach, Calif. There he worked on testing and communications systems, as well as several spacecraft and space transportation programs. From 1988 to 1992, he worked as director of space transportation and advanced programs for a joint TRW-NASA study and on programs for the U.S. military.
In 1992, Stephenson joined Oceaneering International Inc., serving as vice president and general manager of Oceaneering Space Systems in Houston. In 1997, he became president of Oceaneering Advanced Technologies, where he oversaw the company's interests with the U.S. Navy, Department of Energy and entertainment businesses including robotics for hazardous waste site cleanup and attractions at theme parks in Florida, California and Japan.
Stephenson is a member of the National Space Society and American Astronautical Society. He was awarded NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2000 and NASA's Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2001, both presented at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Redlands, Calif., and completed the executive program in management at the University of California in Los Angeles.
Stephenson was born in New London, Conn. He and his wife Loa have two children and three grandsons.
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