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The 38th annual BEYA Gala was held in February. At the event, Stephanie C. Hill, the 2014 Black Engineer of the Year, presented Lockheed Martin’s vice president for program management, Michael Patton, with the Linda Gooden Legacy Award.

Hill, also executive vice president of rotary and mission systems at Lockheed Martin, praised Patton for embodying the legacy of Linda Gooden, a trailblazer for people of color in the defense contractor industry.

Hill commended Patton’s determination and perseverance throughout his career. Patton spent 17 years in technical and leadership roles at General Electric.

He currently leads over 6,000 people as vice president of the Space Products Center at Lockheed Martin, overseeing satellite and missile defense systems development.

In addition, Patton mentors more than 60 people across Lockheed Martin and serves as the executive sponsor for the Black Excellence Council at Lockheed Martin Space.

In his acceptance speech, Patton shared how his journey began in Cincinnati, where he was passionate about three things: planes, trains, and rockets.

“Even from an early age, I knew I wanted to work in the STEM field,” Patton continued.

He participated in after-school math and science programs and wanted to major in aerospace engineering. But life had other plans.

Instead of heading straight to college, he worked as a mail handler at a local post office. After a few years of working full-time and studying late into the night, he finally earned his industrial engineering degree.

This kickstarted his career at GE Aviation, where he worked on jet engines before moving to GE Transportation to work on locomotives.

With his dream of working on trains and planes fulfilled, he set his sights on space.

“Today, I’m excited to say I’ve accomplished my childhood goal of working on planes, trains, and rockets. Throughout my career, I’ve made a point to share my life lessons through mentorship and volunteerism with the next generation. STEM has played a major role in allowing me to live out my childhood dreams, and I want to ensure the door is wide open to anyone who wants to walk through it.”

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