Rita G. Willcoxon formerly served as the Director of Launch Vehicle Processing at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, beginning in December 2006. The Launch Vehicle Processing Directorate was responsible for processing and launching three space shuttles—Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour—processing the Constellation vehicles, and managing a workforce of approximately 5,400 civil service and contractor employees.
After retiring from a 24-year career at NASA at the end of the Shuttle Program in 2011, Ms. Willcoxon went to work for General Electric in their Transportation Division and served as a Global Engineering Leader responsible for the design, development and deployment of train signaling and intelligent control systems for railroad and mining companies around the world.
Willcoxon graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. She received her Master of Science in Industrial Engineering Management from the University of Oklahoma in 1986. In 2016, Ms. Willcoxon was inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Industrial Engineers and in 2018 she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Arkansas. Over the years, Willcoxon has earned numerous awards, including the Silver Snoopy Award, two Exceptional Achievement Medals, the Outstanding Leadership Medal, and an Exceptional Service Medal.
Ruth Gardner was the Technical Deputy Director for the Engineering and Technology Directorate at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at the time of her retirement in 2015. She provided executive leadership to a diverse, multi-discipline engineering work force that designs, builds, sustains, operates, and maintains ground systems and support equipment and performs system engineering and analysis for launch vehicle and spacecraft flight systems. Her organization supported all of the major spaceflight programs including the Launch Services Program, International Space Station Program, Commercial Crew Program, and the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program at the Kennedy Space Center.
Gardner received her B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 1987 and an M.S. in Engineering Management from the University of Central Florida in 1994. Gardner has received numerous honors including the Presidential Rank Meritorious Executive Award, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.
Prior to her retirement in 2012, Roselle B. Hanson served as the deputy director, Technical, in the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She was responsible for providing executive leadership to a diverse, multi-discipline engineering work force that designs, builds, sustains, operates, maintains, and oversees ground systems and support equipment, and launch vehicle and spacecraft flight systems to meet current and future needs of the Launch Services Program, Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and Constellation Ground Operations Projects at Kennedy.
Hanson holds an A.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.S. in Industrial Engineering and Management Systems from the University of Central Florida. She received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, a NASA Certificate of Recognition, a NASA Certificate of Commendation, and many Group Achievement Awards.
Maria Lopez-Tellado was a member of the Payload Carriers & Support Program Office at KSC as a Flight Systems Program Manager. She was responsible for developing program requirements and provides resources for the development, activation, validation, operation, and maintenance of Payload Carriers facility systems and processes to enable efficient launch site processing of Payload Carriers payloads.
Ms. Lopez-Tellado was born in Cuba and grew up in Spain and Puerto Rico. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 1979 with a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering; while working for the NAVY, she continued her education and obtained a Masters degree in Engineering Administration in 1984 from George Washington University.
Alejandra Escobar Santos
Alejandra Escobar Santos is known for her curly hair and bubbly personality. She is currently studying Software Engineering with a minor in Communications at the Florida Institute of Technology. Born and raised in Honduras, she loved public speaking since early on, as well as practicing Taekwondo, reading, and doodling. Her notorious love for books was denoted in a speech that earned her first place in the American Bilingual Schools of Honduras (ABSH) Speech Nationals.
Alejandra founded and is the current president of the Launch STEM Careers Club at Florida Tech. She aims to inspire the next generation of women in Engineering, and after graduation hopes to create something similar in her home country, Honduras.
• Over 100 high school girls from six Brevard County High Schools serving as mentors to elementary and middle school students.
• Florida Institute of Technology female STEM students serving as mentors to University Park Elementary.
• University of Florida graduate student scientists serving as the lead at Cambridge Elementary with NASA STEM professionals as mentors.