Widnall Sworn In As Air Force HeadBy Eva Moy
Professor Sheila E. Widnall ScD '64 was officially sworn into office as Secretary of the Air Force by President Clinton Aug. 6, according to Captain Kathleen Cook, an Air Force spokeswoman. Widnall is the first woman ever to head one of the military branches.
At MIT, Widnall is professor of aeronautics and astronautics and served as associate provost. She has been on the MIT faculty for 28 years.
Clinton announced his intention to nominate Widnall July 2. The full Senate confirmation took place Aug. 5 -- one day before closing session. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved had her nomination earlier that week.
Widnall is currently traveling, and will start her duties in Washington when she returns next week, according to Cook.
A committee to search for a new associate provost at MIT has not yet been appointed.
Although Widnall has never served in the Air Force, she has been an adviser on various military boards. Widnall was also the fifth woman president of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. As president and chairman of AAAS, she testified on numerous occasions to Congressional committees dealing with issues of research, science education, and research faculty funding.
At MIT Widnall has also been a strong force in these issues. As associate provost since January 1992, she has dealt with the issues of MIT's policies and procedures for promotion and tenure policies, a study on mandatory faculty retirement, MIT's international relationships, and the Council on Federal Relations.
Widnall also had a strong interest in academic integrity at MIT, both with students and researchers. She was a chairwoman of the Committee on Discipline and supported the idea of having an honor code for students. She was also the first woman to chair the faculty.
As an engineer, Widnall also holds many distinctions. She was the first alumna appointed to the faculty in the School of Engineering, and received the 1986 Abby Rockerfeller Mauz Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Award.
In addition, Widnall is internationally known for her expertise in fluid dynamics, specifically in the areas of aircraft turbulence and vortices creted by helicopters. She also holds two patents, one of which is an aerodynamic device for either water or air craft.