Center Snapshot - Donna Gilchrist
Donna Gilchrist.
Image above: Donna Gilchrist, Management and Technical Support Office. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

By: Denise Adams

Donna Gilchrist decided it was time to do something for her.

That’s why she returned to school and earned her bachelor’s degree while working full-time and raising her son single-handedly.

Gilchrist has a few quotes that she chooses to live by. One of them is a quote by Napoleon Hill, one of the early personal-success writers: “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”

Gilchrist found the tools and the time, and she started her new position with ATK as a planner at NASA Langley in February.

Another favorite quote by Calvin Coolidge helped her along her journey: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

And persist, she did.

Gilchrist worked as a civil servant at NASA Langley for 14 years. She started in a co-op program and received her associate’s degree in secretarial science. She worked as a branch secretary for three separate branches.

From Langley, she left to begin a 12-year career at Jefferson Lab as a project coordinator for the Free Electron Laser Division. That was when she decided to return to school and receive her bachelor’s in organizational management from Bluefield College. She graduated in 2000.

“I love working here,” she said of NASA Langley. “It’s an enjoyable place to work. That goes for the people who work here as well.”

As a planner, Gilchrist is responsible for creating and updating schedules for assessments assigned through NESC.

“It’s a challenge at times, but I enjoy what I do,” Gilchrist said.

Another of her favorite quotes by Franklin Roosevelt helps her through challenging times: “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Gilchrist was born and raised in Newport News and graduated from Menchville High School. She is the youngest of eight siblings.

Gilchrist enjoys visiting her sisters in New York City. “But I am always ready to come back home. There is nothing like home,” she said.

Her most memorable trip was to Hawaii. “I would love to go back there,” she said. “The sunrises and sunsets… I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Her son, Markus, is 21. He attended Heritage High School and is working at Christopher Newport University.

And Gilchrist hopes to continue to achieve her goals and to watch her son achieve his as she keeps in mind a favorite quote by beat generation painter James Neil Hollingsworth (who wrote as Ambrose Redmoon): “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

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