News

Director of Space Dynamics Laboratory Retires

USURF
June 26, 2003

LOGAN - After a 39-year career with Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL), Allan Steed, Ph.D., is retiring as director of the Lab.

"I am often amazed that I have been fortunate enough to have spent nearly my entire career here at Utah State and SDL," said Steed. "I have had the real pleasure to work with quality people of high integrity. They are not only my co-workers but also my friends."

Steed said that space technology is his life. His love for his work is echoed in a cartoon hanging in his office of a man holding a sign that reads: "Will build IR sensors for food!"

Steed grew up on a dairy farm in Syracuse, Utah, graduating from Davis High School. He then attended Utah State, where he received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate in electrical engineering. In 1964 he joined the staff of the Electro Dynamics Laboratory (EDL) at Utah State, a predecessor of SDL founded in 1959 by Doran Baker, Ph.D.

Some of the first projects Steed worked on at EDL were developing and supporting instruments that flew on an Air Force KC-135 flying laboratory, building visible and infrared remote sensing instruments used in ground-based observations, and launching high-altitude atmospheric sounding rockets.

He succeeded Baker as the director of EDL in 1978. He then became director of the Space Dynamics Laboratory in 1982 when SDL was created from a merger of EDL and the Utah State Space Measurement Lab.

In 1988, SDL was transitioned from the College of Engineering to the Utah State University Research Foundation. Bartell Jensen, Ph.D., then CEO of the Foundation, headed the entire organization. Steed became the director of the Systems Division, which produced instruments for the space shuttle and satellite instruments. In 1996, Steed succeeded Jensen as CEO of the Research Foundation and director of SDL. He later chose to concentrate solely on SDL and has been its director until present.

"I have watched the lab grow from a handful of engineers and technicians who developed instruments for upper atmosphere research to a Lab with a staff of about 400 who create sophisticated payloads for satellites and major programs that have national and international impact," said Steed.

According to Steed, such efforts include developing sensors for the next generation weather satellite for NASA, enabling real-time reconnaissance for the Navy, pioneering plant growth in space for future life support, making critical space-based measurements of green house gases to help mankind understand global climate changes, developing sensors to ensure the safety of the astronauts during their space walks on the International Space Station, and managing unique cooperative programs with Russia.

"I started at the Lab during the Cold War," said Steed. "I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would eventually be working side-by-side with the Russians. It has given me a tremendous introduction to the Russian culture."

The 65-year-old said his hope when he became director of the Lab was to continue the legacy set by the leadership before him. Steed said he owes thanks to many people. He said the Lab would not be what it is today without past leaders like Doran Baker, Bartell Jensen, Kay Baker, Frank Redd and Dave Burt. He would also like to thank SDL's guidance council and all the employees over the years.

"SDL provides an atmosphere where the employees are empowered and can make great things happen," said Steed "This Laboratory has always been a team effort. Each employee, each student plays a vital role in the Lab's success."

He has been a professor at Utah State in the electrical and computer engineering department and has taught graduate classes in space engineering and electro-optical engineering. Steed said that one of SDL's most important roles in education has been to provide financial support and exceptional experience to about 100 students each year.

"I am pleased that we are able to provide students with valuable hands-on experience," said Steed "I have enjoyed the good relationships and support that I have received over the years from Utah State's administration, faculty and students, and Research Foundation."

The Utah State University Research Foundation appointed Michael D. Pavich, retired Major General of U.S. Air Force, as the new director of the SDL. Steed said Mike has the experience, credentials and personal characteristics that can truly take the Lab confidently and positively into the future.

"I look forward to working with him during the leadership transition period and commit my full support to do whatever I can to contribute to his, and the Lab's, successful future."

Steed's immediate plans are to work closely with the new director for a transition period, spend time traveling with his family, and work on a number of personal projects and hobbies. He and his wife of 42 years, Kaye, have four children. Incidentally, each of his children, their spouses and his wife have graduated from Utah State.

"I have indeed been fortunate to work on exciting programs of national importance and do it all while living and raising a family in beautiful Cache Valley. It has been an exciting and fantastic journey," said Steed.

The public is invited to a retirement reception that will be held in Steed's honor July 1, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 489 East Research Park Way, on the Utah State Innovation Campus in North Logan.