Women Who Read Succeed: Donna Shirley

March is Women’s History Month. At Lexplore, we will highlight the achievements of several women in a variety of fields, focusing on those whose journeys have been influenced by technology and literacy.

Donna Shirley had many titles and credentials. She was an author, a pilot, an educator, an aerospace engineer, and a mechanical engineer, to name a few.  She worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for more than 30 years and most notably led the team that built the Mars Rover, Sojourner. That rover, named after Sojourner Truth- a 19th century Black abolitionist and women’s rights activist — was the first-ever rover to land on Mars on July 4, 1997.

As a young woman growing up in Oklahoma in the 1940s and 50’s, she was discouraged from pursuing her passions of flying, space and engineering.  Fortunately, she had the tenacity, intelligence, and perseverance to defy the odds.  She got her pilot’s license and then earned undergraduate degrees in both Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering followed by a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Later in her career, Ms. Shirley founded a company called Managing Creativity and wrote a book with the same title.  Both the company and the book provide a platform for sharing strategies that rely on the collective creativity of groups.  The focus is on efficient ways to turn ideas into innovative products, often using the latest technology.

We honor Dr. Shirley for exemplifying the importance of reading, writing, teamwork, and technology.