2018 Presidential Medallion Honoree

Wanda Austin

USC Trustee

Wanda Austin is a pioneering aeronautical and systems engineer, an influential corporate leader, and a venerated Trojan alumna who has redefined the aerospace industry.  Throughout her extraordinary career, she has significantly shaped the technological landscape of the 21st century by cultivating crucial developments in global security and space exploration.  She exemplifies the spirit of discovery in a transformative age—an unflagging drive to achieve greater peace and prosperity throughout an increasingly interconnected world.

Dr. Austin considerably bolstered our nation’s scientific preeminence during her time at the Aerospace Corporation, an independent nonprofit that collaborates with international governments to provide oversight for high-level scientific and technological projects.  For nearly four decades, she exhibited outstanding leadership in advancing the organization’s intricate and demanding work, particularly in the area of cutting-edge satellite communications.  Dr. Austin’s unique combination of technical expertise and innovative management insights fostered her ascent to the role of president and chief executive officer, as she led the corporation and its thousands of employees with prodigious foresight.

This remarkable ability to inspire others extends to Dr. Austin’s work as a prominent scientific advocate and policymaker.  She has amassed a lengthy and impressive record of public service at the top levels of government, and is recognized as a key architect of our country’s space program.  As an appointee to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the NASA Advisory Council, and the Defense Science Board, she stands as one of the most sought-after civilian experts in her field.  She also continues to champion STEM education through a variety of programs that prepare young people to enter the science and engineering professions.

The exceptional dedication evinced by Dr. Austin’s illustrious accomplishments mirrors her commitment to her alma mater, which she has served with distinction as a member of the USC Board of Trustees and a staunch supporter of our Viterbi School of Engineering.  She has received numerous honors from the national intelligence community, which attest to the importance of her enduring achievements.  Her standing in the scientific realm is further affirmed by her recognition as an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a counselor of the National Academy of Engineering, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Austin represents the classic American success story.  With tremendous determination and ingenuity, she pushes the boundaries of knowledge while accelerating the pace of societal progress.  By working diligently to traverse the frontiers of the natural world, she truly demonstrates the limitless potential of human curiosity, imagination, and intellect.


For her renowned civic and scientific leadership, her essential contributions to national policy, and her far-reaching influence on the technological foundations of modern life, the University of Southern California is proud to present Wanda Austin with the Presidential Medallion.