MU alumna Sharon Langenbeck gave $2.85 million to the College of Engineering Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to establish a graduate fellowship and a new faculty position, MU announced Wednesday.
“Dr. Sharon Langenbeck has been such an influential pioneer in the aerospace and the jet propulsion industry,” UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said in a news conference. “She credits her success to the fine education that she received at the University of Missouri and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.”
The yearlong Sharon L. Langenbeck, Ph.D. Endowed Fellowship in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will reward an MU graduate student $20,000.
“This fellowship and professorship positions you funded will create a lasting legacy for years and years to come,” Noah Manring, interim dean of the College of Engineering, told Langenbeck during a Wednesday news conference. “This is the most significant gift given to our Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering since I’ve been a faculty here.”
Elizabeth Bellott, who is pursuing a doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, is the first Langenbeck Fellow.
“It’s rewarding to feel that I am a role model to her,” Langenbeck said. “I’m a resource, not only for the financial support she gets, but it’s always nice to have someone to speak to about your career as you continue your research and look for the next steps after completing a doctorate.”
Langenbeck said she hopes this gift strengthens gender equality in the male-dominated aerospace industry. Women make up only about 20% of the aerospace industry, she said.
“Where we see it still being an issue is moving up from the entry levels and the initial levels to being in management,” she said. “Management is where you can really change policies, change the way things work, and that’s still a hindrance for women to get into those positions.”
Langenbeck received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MU and was the first woman to graduate with a doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the College of Engineering in 1979.
She has spent her entire career in the aerospace industry. She spent 17 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she worked on projects such as the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field/Planetary Camera. She retired from the laboratory in 2008. She now serves as president of Zonta International, an international service organization that works to improve the lives of women and girls.
During her time at MU, Langenbeck was an Amelia Earhart Fellow, a program put on by Zonta International for women pursuing doctorates in aerospace engineering or space sciences.
“That fellowship helped launch my career in aerospace engineering, and I am fortunate to have spent my entire career in the industry,” Langenbeck said in a news release. “I want Mizzou to continue fostering opportunities for all students, especially young women, to launch their mechanical and aerospace careers through a Mizzou education.”