Campus: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -- September 9, 2005
Cal Poly to Honor Aerospace Legend Burt Rutan with Medal of Excellence
Cal Poly will honor legendary aircraft designer and aeronautical engineering alumnus Burt
Rutan during Fall Convocation, Friday, Sept. 16.
Cal Poly President Warren J. Baker will present the President's Medal of Excellence to Rutan
at a 9:30 a.m. ceremony in the Christopher Cohan Center, Harman Hall. The medal has been
awarded on just three previous occasions.
Rutan, developer of SpaceShipOne, the world's first privately built aircraft to reach space
and win the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE, will deliver the keynote address, "Space, for the
Rest of Us." Later that day, he will meet with Cal Poly aerospace engineering students for
a question-and-answer session and take a tour of new aerospace facilities on campus.
Newsweek has described Rutan as "The man responsible for more innovations in modern aviation
than any living engineer." Over the years, he has translated his revolutionary aviation ideas
into practical, workable and affordable designs that include more than 30 groundbreaking
Burt Rutan has earned numerous awards for his work, including the Presidential Citizen's Medal
from Ronald Reagan for Voyager, the first aircraft to circle the globe non-stop without
refueling. He earned Cal Poly's first-ever Honorary Doctor of Science degree in June 1987.
In his latest venture, Rutan has teamed up with Sir Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin
Group of Companies) to form a new aerospace business, The Spaceship Company. The initial
craft in the new company's fleet of commercial spaceships and aircraft to launch them,
SpaceShipTwo and White Knight Two, are both now in development at Scaled Composites, the
Mojave company Rutan founded in 1982 and where he is CEO.
"I would like to achieve a goal that NASA has neglected," Rutan said about his work. "I want
to make flight outside the atmosphere accessible to the common man by making sub-orbital
flights available to 'space tourists.'"
Born June 17, 1943, in Portland, Ore., and raised in Dinuba, Rutan built model aircraft as
a child. "Throughout school, I spent long hours designing model airplanes to win local
contests and set records," he said. "Even then, I was interested only in constructing my
own designs from raw materials such as balsa wood, paper and bits of wreckage from models
my older brother had flown and crashed."
Rutan began flying airplanes for real in 1959 at the age of 16. After graduating from Cal
Poly in 1965, he worked as a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base. In 1974, he
founded the Rutan Aircraft Factory, a small business in Mojave that developed light aircraft
and sold educational materials for 3,000 homebuilt aircraft customers.
"As a pioneer in aviation and an entrepreneur who exemplifies the Cal Poly learn-by-doing
educational philosophy, Burt Rutan has set an important example for scientists, engineers
and inventors in all disciplines to be bold in their scientific and technological innovation
efforts," said President Baker. "Throughout his distinguished career, he has demonstrated the
extraordinary difference that a creative spirit, driven by curiosity, can make to the
advancement of humankind."
Note to editors: Burt Rutan will be available for interviews immediately following the
convocation, approximately 11 a.m., in the Founder's Room at the Performing Arts Center.
Reporters and photographers are also welcome to attend the student question-and-answer
session with Burt Rutan at 2 p.m. in the Keck Lab at the Advanced Technology Laboratory
Susan McDonald, Cal Poly Public Affairs, (805) 756-7109,
Teresa Hendrix, (805) 756-7266, firstname.lastname@example.org