- Press Release
- Feb 7, 2023
Carolyn Griner, one of NASA’s female pioneers, to retire from Marshall Center
In 1964, Carolyn Griner was one of only three women in technical
positions at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. –
outnumbered by male engineers at a ratio of more than 1,000 to one.
Today, after 36 years of helping America reach new frontiers in
space exploration, Griner, now the deputy director of the Marshall Center,
has announced plans to retire from NASA at the end of the year.
Griner will take into retirement many history-making memories,
including the liftoff of the mammoth Saturn 5 rocket that carried Americans
to the Moon; the launch of the first elements of America’s first
experimental space station, Skylab; the flight of the first and 100
subsequent Space Shuttle missions; and delivering science in space on
Spacelab missions – all efforts in which she played major roles.
Noting Griner’s planned retirement, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin
presented her with her second Distinguished Service Medal – NASA’s highest
honor. “For the eight and a half years I’ve been administrator of this
agency, whenever there’s an assignment that other people run from, Carolyn
goes for it,” Goldin said, citing Griner’s numerous contributions for “this
agency and this country.”
As deputy director since 1994, Griner assists the Marshall Center
director in managing a broad range of propulsion, space science and
materials research and development activities in support of the space
Griner has come a long way since setting her sights in the 1960s on
the then predominantly male field of engineering. Although it was uncommon
to find a woman in a technical position, she said her gender didn’t make a
difference. “With everything we wanted to accomplish at Marshall, we all
needed four sets of hands.”
However, Griner believes the arrival of more female engineers and
scientists in the workplace makes it easier for today’s professional women
to network and find role models.
During her career at NASA, she witnessed other changes, including
widespread advances in technology and changes in management styles.
Among the most striking change, says Griner, was the advent of
computers and calculators. “When you look at what we accomplished with
manual tools like the slide rule, it’s really amazing,” she says. “Now, I
probably have more computing power on my desktop computer than we had in
1965 in all of NASA.”
In addition to technological advances, she has seen an evolution in
management styles: “There is more of a participatory environment today.
Now, it’s more common to draw from the talents of people on all levels.”
Settling on the “right” time to retire was not an easy matter,
Griner says. “I could not make this decision without knowing that Marshall
would continue to succeed in meeting the needs of this country. I believe
our country’s future in space depends on this Center. It has the vision,
the plan, the skills and the people.”
“Most of all, I will miss the people,” she says. “I was 18 when I
came here, and this is family. After so many years, I feel like I’m running
away from home. I feel privileged to have played a role in what Marshall
Griner joined the space agency in 1964 as a co-op student and
progressed to positions of increasing responsibility within several key
program areas, including the Space Station Utilization Division at NASA
Headquarters and the Spacelab 3 mission.
Prior to being named deputy director, her most significant
assignments included serving as director of the Marshall Center Mission
Operations Laboratory and managing the Marshall Payload Projects Office.
Griner also served as acting director of the Marshall Center for nine months
Griner’s numerous awards include the Presidential Rank of
Meritorious Executive (twice), the Presidential Rank of Distinguished
Executive (twice), the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal, the NASA
Exceptional Service Medal (twice) and the Distinguished Service Medal
She has a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering from
Florida State University in Tallahassee and completed graduate work in
industrial and systems engineering at the University of Alabama in
Griner attributes much of her success to her family. “To be
successful in a two-career family, it’s been a real partnership with my
spouse and children. My husband has been a true partner through thick and
She and her husband, Donald Griner, have three grown children –
Kimberly Webb, David Griner and Stacy Taylor – and two grandchildren.
No decision has been made on who will replace Griner as deputy