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New Engineering Scholarship Honors Pines

Aerospace Entrepreneur’s Gift Aims to Inspire Future Engineers

By Robert Herschbach

Students work on drones in Iribe Center

Photo by John T. Consoli

Students from the Autonomous Micro Air Vehicle (AMAV) team work in the Brin Family Aerial Robotics Lab in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering. A gift in honor of UMD President Darryll J. Pines from John S. Langford III (below), founder of a company specializing in unmanned aerial vehicles, will provide scholarships for aerospace engineering students.

The founder of a company specializing in unmanned aerial vehicles has made a $250,000 gift to support scholarships at the University of Maryland in honor of President Darryll J. Pines, whose pioneering research in the field helped shape the company's success.

The gift from John Aurora Flight Sciences founder John S. Langford III will endow a full in-state tuition scholarship annually for an aerospace engineering student at the A. James Clark School of Engineering. The new scholarship was announced Tuesday as Langford delivered the Minta Martin Lecture in Aerospace Engineering, a twice-yearly event that features influential entrepreneurs, innovators and thought leaders.

The scholarship, which helps build toward the university’s $1.5 billion Fearless Ideas fundraising goal, is also a way of “paying it forward,” Langford said. “Our goal is to inspire future generations of students and to build a more diverse next generation of aerospace engineers.”Langford

The Pines-Langford Endowed Scholarship is merit-based, with preference given to students who have distinguished themselves through significant achievements in entrepreneurship, student-led projects, research, leadership or service. “It’s a way of recognizing the pivotal role that UMD in general—and Darryll Pines in particular—played in the success of the Aurora enterprise,” Langford said.

Langford and Pines were graduate students together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Pines earned his doctoral degree. Both soon found themselves working in the Washington, D.C., area—Pines as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering, and Langford as he launched Aurora, initially from his garage.

While on leave from UMD, Pines guided unmanned aircraft development as a program manager at the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2004 to 2006. He started DARPA’s Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) program, which fundamentally shaped modern-day commercial unmanned aircraft use, and which Aurora was a participant in. Pines would go on to serve as dean of the Clark School from 2009 until this spring.

Langford served as a member of the Department of Aerospace Engineering’s board of visitors for several years, and Pines served on the Aurora Flight Sciences board of directors from 2014 until the company was sold to Boeing in 2017.

Pines, a special guest at the virtual event, thanked Langford for his commitment to the University of Maryland, the region and the aerospace industry. He also cited Langford’s efforts to promote diversity within the field, including through his support for Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Norman Wereley, chair of the aerospace engineering department, expressed his and the department’s gratitude for the endowed scholarship. “There will be students, in perpetuity, who benefit from your act of generosity,” he said.


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