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Phil Compton

B.S. Aerospace Engineering Virginia Tech, 1947
M.S. Aeronautical Engineering, Georgia Tech

A few years after graduating high school, Phil Compton and his parents took a drive to Virginia Tech and met with the Dean of Engineering. Immediately after his “interview” with the dean, Compton was told he could enroll, but he would have to be in the military. His parents drove off, and he was left in the engineersʼ battalion. Not too long after he began his studies, the military came calling. He ended up in the Pacific Theatre in World War II and did not return until three years later in August of 1946.

In 1947 Compton graduated from Virginia Tech and went to work for his first Fortune 500 company, Westinghouse. He roamed around the company on various assignments eventually landing in the Aviation Gas Turbine Division, building the machines for Navy fighter aircraft. He decided he needed more schooling and in less than 12 months he earned his masterʼs in aeronautical engineering from Georgia Tech, and took a new position with Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif. He worked on transport aircraft and a bomber project. When he left Douglas in 1961, he was the Assistant to the Vice President of Engineering. His vice president was offered a job at Lockheed, so Compton went with him.

In 1964, he returned to Virginia to become the Director of Program Development with RAC. For 10 years his work included development of new corporate wide programs in operations research and systems analysis in both the Army and non-defense areas. He eventually left RAC to join NASA. Compton spent his last 12 years of work with NASA in Washington, D.C. as a Program Manager of Advanced Technology. His responsibilities included the oversight of studies and plans for the long-range aeronautics program. He conducted advanced systems studies and analyses of future aircraft design concepts. During this time, he met folks like Wernher von Braun, one of the most prominent spokesmen of space exploration in the United States during the 1950s, and Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb.

Sadly, Mr. Compton passed away in November 2017.

Select Awards and Recognition
NASA Space-Ship-Earth Award
Chair, Capitol section of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
President of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers (VSPE), 1983-84