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Julian Earls


Hall of Fame Plaque with Portrait.


Over his 40-year career, Dr. Julian M. Earls helped to shape the center in a number of areas. He began his career in 1965 as a physicist and quickly established himself as a leader in health physics and radiology, authoring NASA’s first-ever health-physics guides. Dr. Earls was a champion of equal opportunity and the first African American to hold many leadership positions at the center. He rose to the ranks of center director in 2003, where his energy and leadership elevated the center’s presence in the agency and region. Dr. Earls retired in 2005.


Julian Earls began his career at the center as a physicist, and he rose through the ranks to become the ninth center director of the NASA Glenn Research Center. Along the way he authored numerous technical papers, earned 10 university degrees, mentored students and colleagues, championed equal opportunity, and was often recognized for his exceptional leadership and unparalleled public speaking abilities.

Earls was born in Virginia and earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Norfolk State University in 1964. He went on to earn his master’s degree in radiation biology in 1965 from the Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. In the same year he came to the NASA Lewis Research Center as a physicist in the health-physics program.

Early on he established himself as a leader in the field of health physics. In 1968 he became head of the Health Physics and Licensing section of the Nuclear Systems Division as well as the Radiological Safety Officer. He authored numerous technical papers and NASA’s first health-physics guides. In 1972 he earned both a doctorate in public health in radiation physics as well as the equivalent of a master’s of public health in environmental health from the University of Michigan, while also serving as the chief of the center’s Environmental Health Office.

Dr. Earls was a trailblazer for diversity. Over the course of his career he was the center’s first African American section head, office chief, division chief and deputy director. In addition to serving as a role model, he was committed to empowering others to prepare, seek and excel in new opportunities. His career is noted not only for technical achievements, but also for generous mentorship of employees and students. He actively served on and led center equal opportunity initiatives as well as dozens of community organizations that encouraged young minorities. He was elected into the inaugural class of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame with such distinguished individuals as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Justice Thurgood Marshall. Dr. Earls is the founder of the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology—an endowment that raises scholarships for black students who major in technical disciplines at historically black colleges.

In 1979 he completed the elite Professional Managerial Diploma course at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and continued his trajectory through the executive ranks. In 1983 he became chief of the Health, Safety, and Security Division, and in 1988 he was promoted to director of the Office of Health Services. His leadership skills were applied in other areas of the center as he filled new roles in business development, computer services and operations. In 2002 he was selected as the center deputy director and was responsible for the overall management of the center’s organizational objectives, direction and resource allocation. It was not long before he was appointed as the center director by Administrator Sean O’Keefe in 2003.

In his nearly two years as center director, Dr. Earls brought a style of leadership that combined enthusiasm, humility and humor. Relationships that he built over his career spanned involvement and commitment to the Greater Cleveland community to elevate Glenn’s presence in the region and to help the center navigate difficult times. He was awarded numerous times in the community for his contributions and leadership. Dr. Earls is the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and has received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service twice. He also has been presented with honorary degrees from multiple universities.

Dr. Earls ended his 40-year NASA career with his retirement in December 2005. Since that time, he has served as the Cleveland State University Executive in Residence—continuing to mentor and inspire students. He remains active in numerous community endeavors and is a tireless advocate for education. He also is the president of Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio.

Related Documents


Man seated at office desk.
Julian Earls at his desk (2/25/1976).
Man and woman holding trophy with several men standing behind.
Julian Earls and Bell McCoy (seated) are joined by Craig Strong, Richard Carosso, Jerry Seppelt, and William Simon (1977).
Man pointing to spacecraft model.
Julian Earls with model of Apollo capsule in the Visitors Information Center (7/20/1977).
Julian Earls at his desk (10/5/1982).
Julian Earls with aircraft models in the Visitors Information Center (1989)
Man talking in front of blackboard.
Julian Earls (3/2/1993).
Man standing in front of large glabe.
Julian Earls in the Visitors Information Center (1996).
Man speaking at podium
Julian Earls addresses the 2004 Honor Awards attendees.