Sheila E. Widnall, Ph.D.
Former Secretary of the Air Force, Educator
Sheila E. Widnall. Ph.D. is the former Secretary of the Air Force, the only woman to ever head a military service. Sheila Widnall, however, is quite accustomed to being the first, and often, the only.
When but a young girl this scientifically gifted Tacoma, Washington visionary and humanitarian looked upward and knew she would someday soar with eagles, and, indeed, this she has done. Sheila Widnall went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to begin her take off toward the heavens.
Master pilot, astrophysicist, aeronautical genius, lauded educator, prolific writer, loved and loving wife and mother and compassionate human being are a few of the accomplishments and contributions of the extraordinary Sheila Widnall.
After 30 years of teaching and leading at MIT (Widnall was the first woman to chair a department at MIT,) Widnall assumed the position of Secretary of the Air Force in 1993. In that role she was responsible for the current and future readiness of the Air Force to accomplish its missions. She oversaw the recruiting, training and equipping of the 380,000 men and women on active duty, 251,000 members of the Air National Guard and the Air Reserve, and 184,000 civilians of the Total Force. She was further responsible for planning, justifying and allocating the service's annual budget of approximately $62 billion. Other responsibilities included logistical support, maintenance, research and development and welfare of personnel.
Widnall is noted for education and training, her people first attitude and an eye for technology. During her tenure she concentrated on quality of life issues, modernization and acquisition reform and scientific and technological development. Dr. Widnall is internationally known for her work in fluid dynamics, specifically in the areas of aircraft turbulence and spiraling air flows.
Upon her retirement as Secretary of the Air Force in 1997, Sheila Widnall left with the profound respect and regard from everyone with whom she served, officer, enlisted and civilian. Dr. Widnall has again resumed her career at MIT.
Women's International Center adds its profound respect, regard and admiration to Dr. Sheila Widnall as we present the 1998 Living Legacy Award to a woman who continues to soar high and see beyond the stars.