Lynn Wright used an early interest in mathematics as the foundation of a career that helped the United States achieve leadership in space exploration. Born in Shelby in 1941, he lived there until 1963. His parents, Louis and Emma Wright, and grandparents were life-long Shelbians. Lynn and his wife, the former Cynthia Shoemaker ’59, often visit family and friends in Shelby and remain avid Whippet fans.
Early childhood experiences were central to shaping Lynn’s life. He especially enjoyed playing baseball and tennis and swimming in Seltzer Park. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop #3 which his father formed. Scoutmaster Roger Pfahler was particularly influential, and Lynn often recalls Appalachian Trail hikes led by Roger.
Lynn completed Eagle Scout requirements in 1955, and he and fellow Eagle Scout John Stevenson ’59 canoed streams in central Ohio and Canada.
Numerous Shelby teachers significantly influenced Lynn. Emile John took a special interest in Lynn’s math skills and helped him prepare for statewide algebra and plane geometry tests. Lynn’s first grade teacher, Eva Ross, forwarded Daily Globe articles on Lynn’s achievements to her son, Dr.- Willard Ross, a math professor at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. An ensuing math scholarship at Knox led to a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with minors in economics and English.
Other exceptional teachers include Charles Williams, a life-long friend and mentor; Lillian Rae Bowman who got Lynn interested in IBM-his eventual employer-through her stock market analysis exercises; Marie Hughes who effectively “managed” her American history class with the softest voice imaginable; Roger Copeland and Bruce Archdeacon who monitored Lynn and lab partner Torn Clabaugh ’59 in science labs, thereby avoiding all but minor explosions.
After graduating from Knox in 1963, Lynn married Cynthia in Shelby’s First Methodist Church where her father Stanley was senior minister. Lynn and Cindy then moved to Maryland where he began a 30-year IBM career. Highlights included 17 years (1965-82) with IBM’s Federal Systems Division at Houston’s Manned Spacecraft Center. Lynn worked there as a programmer and manager of programmers and systems engineers developing real-time flight control software and providing flight controller mission support for all 17 Apollo missions, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), Skylab and the first seven Space Shuttle missions.
For Apollo 5, the first earth orbiting Apollo mission supported on a new generation of computers, Lynn developed the Earth Orbit Trajectory Supervisor which provided control of spacecraft events and activities. For Apollo 8, the first Apollo mission to circle the moon, Lynn developed the Cislunar (earth to moon) Trajectory Determination Processor which determined the craft’s trajectory and calculated appropriate maneuvers. These maneuvers performed by the craft’s main engine propulsion system and altitude control system jets assured the craft would enter lunar orbit and not fly into deep space or crash into the moon. NASA then asked Lynn to join its flight controller team for Apollo missions 8-13. Lynn considers this one of his career’s most memorable times.
After Apollo, Lynn began his IBM management career. Lynn and his team received seven awards from NASA and IBM for their accomplishments during Project Apollo, the ASTP and the first Space Shuttle missions.
In 1982 Lynn moved to Maryland to manage development of the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS). This included developing and installing software for the GPS Mission Control Center and building and installing hardware for GPS Ground Antennas at five global sites. That original GPS system remains the basis for today’s GPS applications.
Lynn was then program manager of the $500 million Data Systems Modernization contract to provide hardware and software for nine Air Force satellite control centers in Sunnyvale, CA and Colorado Springs, CO. During this five-year program, Lynn managed over 600 IBM employees and 200 subcontractors developing one million source lines of code and integrating and installing hardware.
In 1990 Lynn was named an IBM director and formed a new business area to address federal government non-military business opportunities that led to contracts with the Environmental Protection Agency, Treasury Department, Health & Human Services, Resolution Trust Corporation, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Hubble Space Telescope program.
After IBM’s Federal Systems Division was sold to Loral Space Corporation and then to Lockheed Martin, Lynn was named vice president of engineering and technology for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems unit. In this role, Lynn managed hardware and software engineers and systems analysts supporting over 25 programs. He also managed the unit’s program manager training and certification processes and served on several Lockheed technical boards. He was a member of the Maryland High Technology Council, the Information Technology Association of America’s Systems Integration Council, and the Maryland Governor’s High Technology Advisory Board. Lynn twice led United Fund Drives – for IBM-FSD and Lockheed Martin.
Lynn and Cindy have two sons, Jason and Jeremy, and four grandsons all living near their home in North Potomac, Maryland. Retired, Lynn enjoys being an involved grandparent, playing tennis and golf, fly fishing with brother Rick ’62, kayaking, caring for his backyard putting green and supporting Cindy who is director of music and organist at Potomac Presbyterian Church.
Nominator: retired SHS teacher Emile John. Presenter: Rick Wright, brother