Meet the Mission Team
Willis S. Jenkins, Jr.
Explorer's Program Executive, NASA Headquarters
Willis Jenkins is a program executive in the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Within his role in the Explorer Program, Jenkins is responsible for projects from definition and formulation through funding and accomplishment of objectives.
Jenkins came to NASA headquarters as a program executive in 2003. He began his career with NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in 1994.
Jenkins was awarded one of NASA’s highest honors, the Medal for Exceptional Service, for his contributions to the successful launch of NOAA-K (NOAA-15). He has also garnered accolades for his work performance at the agency, including an outstanding team effort on the Polar Operational Environmental Satellite Program. He was nominated Black Engineer of the Year in 2001. He also received the outstanding Professional Excellence in Federal Career Award, signed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
Prior to NASA, Jenkins enjoyed a successful career in the private sector. As an electrical systems manager at McDonnell Douglass, Seabrook, Md, he managed the electrical systems for all NASA Pegasus missions and supported the orbital launch service managers on launch vehicles (Pegasus, Scout, Delta and Atlas). He trained military personnel and provided expertise in the integration and testing of flight and ground communication units as a production test engineer with American Systems Corporation, Chantilly, Va. At General Electric, Rockville, Md., he developed software for mainframe computers. He began his career as an electrical engineer at E-Systems, Falls Church, Va.
Jenkins earned his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. At age 15, Willis was accepted to a program called A Better Chance (ABC). The program placed talented inner city youth in schools with rigorous academic programs. He left Washington, D.C., to finish his high school career at public schools in North Andover and Amherst, Massachusetts.
Staying close to his Washington, D.C., hometown, he lives in Maryland with his wife of 22 years and their two teen daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, restoring antique Buicks and mentoring children in the community.