What a ride
Alumna leaves helm of NASA Glenn after nearly 40 years with the space agency.
After 38 years of space engineering, Marla Pérez-Davis, PhD ’91, this summer retired from NASA and the Glenn Research Center, which she has led since late 2019.
She was the first Puerto Rican to lead a NASA space center and a role model to many female science and engineering students at Case. At Homecoming 2022, Pérez-Davis will receive the Meritorious Service Award from the Case Alumni Association.
Upon her retirement, Cleveland’s WKYC-TV and other media outlets recounted her improbable journey from a small town in Puerto Rico to the heights of the nation’s space program.
She credits her mother with pushing her toward college and a career few in her community could imagine. A NASA job fair at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez led her to Cleveland. She joined Glenn in 1983 as a researcher focused on batteries and fuel cells and began her climb up the engineering ranks.
Pérez-Davis served as Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch, deputy director of research and engineering and deputy director of the center. She also earned her doctorate in chemical engineering at Case while working full time and raising two sons.
As Glenn’s director, she led the center and its 3,200 staff and contract personnel into a new era of space travel. Major activities completed during her tenure include the construction of Glenn’s new Research Support Building and testing on the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I Moon mission.
“Marla’s four decades of service to NASA have made a remarkable impact on critical agency goals and missions,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “Her trailblazing legacy is the members of the Artemis Generation she has inspired to believe that they, too, can work for and lead at NASA.”