November 16, 2022

Gwynne Shotwell

President & COO / SpaceX

On November 16 Gwynne Shotwell spoke privately to Club members and guests about the value of failure as a leadership and learning tool, how she sees “multi-planetary” life and the environmental impact of the Starship reusable rocket.


President & COO / SpaceX

As President and COO of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell is responsible for day-to-day operations and managing all customer and strategic relations to support company growth. She joined SpaceX in 2002 as Vice President of Business Development and built the Falcon vehicle family manifest to approximately 170 launches, representing more than $20 billion in business. Shotwell is a member of the SpaceX Board of Directors.

Prior to joining SpaceX, Shotwell spent more than 10 years at the Aerospace Corporation, holding positions in Space Systems Engineering, Technology and Project Management. She was promoted to the role of Chief Engineer of an MLV-class satellite program, managed a landmark study for the Federal Aviation Administration on commercial space transportation, and completed an extensive analysis of space policy for NASA’s future investment in space transportation.

In addition to being included on Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, Shotwell was awarded the 2020 Von Karmen Wings award. In 2018 Shotwell was named the Satellite Executive of the Year and she was awarded the AIAA Goddard Astronautics Awards as well as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Ralph Coats Roe Medal.  Fortune Magazine placed Shotwell at #42 on their list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2018 and Forbes named her #55 on their list of Power Women in 2019. Gwynne was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2020 and in 2019 was appointed to the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group. In 2014, Shotwell was appointed to the United States Export Import Bank’s Advisory Committee and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. Shotwell was elected to the honorable grade of Fellow with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Through leadership in both corporate and external science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, Shotwell has helped raise over $1.8 million for STEM programs reaching thousands of students nationwide.

Shotwell received, with honors, her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics, and serves on their Board. She has authored dozens of papers on a variety of space related subjects.


Michelle B. Larson, PhD

President & CEO / The Adler Planetarium

Michelle Larson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Adler Planetarium, a position she has held since 2013. Dr. Larson’s professional passion is to welcome everyone into the journey of discovery through science engagement and to help leaders of mission-driven organizations leverage their hidden strengths.

Dr. Larson oversees a 21st century space science center that includes the institution’s landmark museum and observatory complex; one of the world’s leading collections documenting the history of astronomical science; and an award-winning digital platform that engages millions of people around the globe. Annually, more than 500,000 people visit the Adler on the shore of Lake Michigan, making it one of Chicago’s leading attractions.
Since Michelle joined the Adler Planetarium, the team has found new and innovative ways to meet people wherever they are and welcome them into the scientific community. The museum has expanded astronomy programming and partnerships in neighborhoods across Chicago; developed online experiences that engage people around the world through virtual field trips, sky observing hangouts, and even a space comedy show; and the Adler remains home to Earth’s largest platform for citizen science, the Zooniverse—an online tool that connects researchers with millions of volunteers around the globe.

Michelle is a leader with long range vision, near term focus, and the operational discipline to keep an organization moving forward. She works collaboratively with the Board and staff to rethink all aspects of the non-profit business model and develop sustainable practices that enable mission-driven organizations to realize their full potential.

Michelle earned her PhD in physics from Montana State University, and enjoys making connections with people through science in everyday life. Don’t be surprised if you end up speaking with her about rising cells of cream in your coffee, or protecting dark skies with responsible lighting choices. She also enjoys sharing the more spectacular objects of the night sky with the public through her telescope. A favorite highlight was when a young child exclaimed, “Wow! Saturn looks just like a Chevy symbol.”

Michelle serves on several national and Chicago-area advisory boards, and lives just outside Chicago with her husband—who is also an astrophysicist—their daughter, and two cats.


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