February 23, 2021
Henry Randall Grooms: CEE Grad and Space Program Pioneer
Civil engineer Henry Randall Grooms (CE '69) may be best known for his groundbreaking work at Rockwell International, which eventually merged its space division with Boeing. But before heading to California to work directly on the U.S. space program, Grooms completed his engineering education at CMU. His decision to pursue a terminal degree came after he’d graduated from Howard University and started his family.
Grooms saw an advertisement for CMU’s school of engineering and sent in the attached postcard. Not only was he accepted into the program, he was offered a full scholarship with a stipend—enough to relocate to Pittsburgh with his wife and child. Grooms enrolled in the master’s degree program but eventually continued into the PhD program, graduating in 1969 and was advised by Professor Tung Au. At the time, few engineers took their studies to the doctorate level, and most who did stayed in academia.
However, Grooms was motivated by a passion for architecture and engineering that he’d discovered as a child. He went to work for Rockwell International as a structural engineer. Over time, Grooms made his mark on space exploration through structural engineering for high-profile missions including the Delta launch vehicle, Skylab, the Apollo program and lunar landing, X-37 reusable space plane, and the Space Shuttle. At the height of his career, he led a team of more than 80 to perform technical, structural, and stress analysis of space systems programs.
In honor of his career accomplishments, Grooms was presented both the Black Engineer of the Year Lifetime Achievement award and the National Society of Black Engineers' Lifetime Achievement Award in Industry in 2004. At the time, Boeing issued a statement saying that the award recognizes “work in pushing the boundaries of technology frontiers.”
The author of more than 20 technical papers, Grooms earned Boeing’s space division Engineer of the Year Award in 1980. He’s also the recipient of CMU’s 1985 Alumni Merit award.
In addition to his engineering work, Grooms remained committed to giving back to the community. He’s a co-founder of Project REACH, a nonprofit that helped minority students to prepare for—and succeed in—college.
Top Photo: Dr. Henry Randall Grooms c. 1985 at the Duquesne Club. CMU University Archives