NASA and community officials paid tribute to the late John C. Stennis Space Center Director Roy S. Estess on May 2, naming a site facility in his memory and announcing establishment of the annual Roy S. Estess Public Service Leadership Award.
Estess, a Mississippi native and graduate of Mississippi State University, served as director of Stennis Space Center from 1989 to 2002, gaining a reputation as an agency pioneer, as well as a mentor and coach to many who later led or still lead throughout NASA.
"His legacy will not be forgotten," Stennis Director Patrick Scheuermann said during a May 2 ceremony at the south Mississippi facility. "The significant contributions of Roy Estess will be etched in our memories for generations."
Stennis hosted NASA, civic and government representatives during a tribute ceremony that featured the unveiling of new lettering on the Roy S. Estess Building, which is the main NASA administration facility onsite. Stennis officials also unveiled a commissioned portrait of Estess, which now will hang in the central lobby of the building bearing his name.
The ceremony also paid tribute to Estess' 42 years of government service by launching the new public service leadership award. Each year, Stennis will present the award to an individual demonstrating a career record of innovative leadership benefitting the government, as well as a history of volunteerism supporting the general public.
Estess arrived at what was then known as the Mississippi Test Facility in 1966 as a test engineer working on the Saturn V S-II second stage test program. When facility manager Jackson Balch began diversifying the installation in the early 1970s, he assigned Estess to search for compatible federal and state agencies to share in the vast facilities and diverse programs starting up at the center.
Estess held several managerial positions at the rocket engine test facility, including stints as as equal opportunity officer and as interim director of the Earth Resources Laboratory. During this time, he also completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Graduate Business School. In 1980, Estess was named deputy director of the south Mississippi facility and served in that position until 1989, when he became Stennis' fourth director.
He led the test facility for more than a decade, a tenure which also featured temporary duty as assistant to two NASA administrators and as acting director of Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Estess retired in 2002 after compiling a 37-year NASA career. He died June 25, 2010.
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