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Memorial Tributes, Volume 11
the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). In 1974, he was the recipient of the AIAA Reed Aeronautics Award. Willis was also a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
In 1982, Willis received the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy Award for “significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” In 1985, he was selected by the National Academy of Engineering to give the Founders Lecture. His talk, “Risk and Technical Health,” reflected his deep concern that the government’s unwillingness to take technical risks was undermining the technical health of the country. In 1988, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Ronald Reagan, which he said “made me mighty happy.” He was posthumously inducted into the National Management Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
In his quiet way, Willis was a dedicated American patriot, deeply concerned about the future of science and technology in the United States. He was an egalitarian and privately had little respect for people who were not. Daniel M. Tellep, Lockheed chief executive officer from 1989 to 1995, was associated with Willis from 1955 to 2004. At a celebration of Willis’s life, Tellep said, “He represented to many of us engineers a template for what a good and decent and skilled and dedicated professional engineer should be. He was and always remained my engineering hero.” Willis was deeply respected by a broad range of people in many walks of life. Very few people can match his accomplishments.
Willis’s wife Anita predeceased him. He is survived by his sons, Willis Jr. and James, a daughter, Nancy Gay Bostick, and grandchildren, William L. Hawkins and Elena V.S. Hawkins.