shotwell170.jpgBusinesswoman, engineer, rocket scientist and mentor are just some of the terms used to describe Gwynne Shotwell '86, '88 MS, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, a commercial space exploration company, and recipient of The Alumnae of Northwestern University’s 2015 Centennial Alumnae Award.


The Alumnae Award recognizes a woman who has brought honor to Northwestern through outstanding professional contributions in her field and who has attained national recognition. Established in 1976, the Alumnae Award has been presented every year to an outstanding alumna who has had a significant impact in her field of endeavor. Educators, journalists, doctors and artists are included among The Alumnae’s roster of award recipients.

Shotwell received, with honors, her bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1986 and her master of science degree in applied mathematics in 1988, both from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Shotwell was SpaceX’s seventh employee when she joined as vice president of business development in 2002. In that position she helped develop the Falcon rocket family of vehicles, which resulted in more than 50 space launches, representing over $5 billion in revenue. Today as president and chief operating officer, Shotwell is responsible for day-to-day operations, managing over $7 billion in contracts, including multiple contracts with NASA to deliver supplies and eventually crew to and from the International Space Station.

SpaceX has grown to more than 3,500 employees, three launch sites, a rocket-development facility in Texas, and a 550,000-square-foot factory with offices in Hawthorne, California. The company designs, manufactures and tests the majority of the components of its space vehicles in-house. The company is currently making final modifications to its Dragon spacecraft to ready the spacecraft for human transport, and it was recently certified by the United States Air Force to launch national security payloads into space, which represents the largest market for launch services in the world.

SpaceX supports science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs locally near its offices, as well as at national engineering programs and competitions. Through leadership in both corporate and external programs, Shotwell has helped raise more than $1 million for STEM education programs reaching thousands of students nationwide.

“As part of our Centennial celebration, The Alumnae of Northwestern University is extremely proud to present the 2015 Alumnae Award to Gwynne Shotwell,” said Alumnae president Janet Bilandic '84 MBA. “She joins a distinguished group of women from such diverse fields as business, education, journalism, music, medicine, theater and public service. The Alumnae takes great pride in presenting this year’s award to a woman whose life of achievement has brought honor to Northwestern University.”


Shotwell received her award during a November 12 ceremony at the new Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts.

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