SP-4302 Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center 1940-1965

 

Part III: THE LEAP TO SPACE : 1959-1965

1963-1965

 

11

A Change of Leadership

 

[503] THE first generation of top management at Ames was approaching retirement age. A few had already retired and others, it was clear, would soon follow. Within another 5 years the management picture could change rather markedly. Some change in the outlook and policies of the Center would occur even if the new management team were chosen from the existing staff. The change would very likely be more drastic if a new Director from outside the Center were appointed. The opportunity for this arose late in 1965.

On October 15, 1965, Dr. Smith J. DeFrance, Director of the Ames Research Center since its founding, retired after 45 years of public service. He had been an effective leader, well liked by his staff and respected throughout the aerospace community. Coming to Moffett Field in 1940, on the eve of World War II, DeFrance had applied his long experience and characteristic driving energy to the construction of a new Laboratory which well served the country's wartime needs and grew, under his guidance, to a research center of international repute. The Laboratory which he founded bore the stamp of his integrity.

Dr. DeFrance was in 1964 one of 10 men to receive the Career Civil Service Award of the National Civil Service League and, on October 5, 1965, at a ceremony held in Washington, he was accorded NASA's highest award-the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership. He was further honored on October 19, 1965, with a retirement dinner, in San Jose, attended by 800 of his friends from all over the country. Also a portrait of Dr. DeFrance, executed in oil, was hung opposite that of Dr. Ames in the lobby of the Ames Administration Building.

When Dr. DeFrance's plan to retire was announced, there was much speculation as to who would replace him. There were, on the Center's staff, several worthy candidates for the position; nevertheless, qualms developed over the possibility that an "outsider" might be picked. It was therefore an occasion that brought relief as well as pleasure to the staff when the announcement was made that the new Director of the Ames Research Center....

 


[
504]

Oil painting of Dr, Smith J. DeFrance hanging in lobby of administration building of Ames Research Center.

Oil painting of Dr, Smith J. DeFrance hanging in lobby of administration building of Ames Research Center.


[
505]

H. Julian Allen.

H. Julian Allen.


[
506]

John F.Parsons.

John F.Parsons.

 

[507] ....would be H. Julian (Harvey) Allen. This honor closely followed an earlier one. At the same Washington ceremony at which DeFrance had received his medal, Allen had been awarded NASA's highest scientific honor-the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.

Harvey assumed his new duties with a certain air of resignation and quickly took steps to ensure that they would not infringe too heavily on his personal research work. He turned over a large segment of his administrative responsibilities to Jack Parsons who was, in fact, quite capable of managing the whole Center. Administrative responsibilities were also shifted to Loren Bright, for whom the position of Executive Assistant to the Director was established. Having thus substantially unburdened himself, Allen again picked up the threads of his aerodynamic-heating research while the work of the Center moved forward with scarcely a ripple.


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