NORMAN JENKINS RYKER, JR.
Ryker Jr., Norman Jenkins
NORMAN JENKINS RYKER, JR. Born December 25, 1926, in Tacoma, Washington; died May 7, 2006, in Santa Clarita, California. Norman Jenkins Ryker, Jr. -A "Pappy of Apollo" and Space Shuttle Pioneer-dies at 79 Norman Jenkins Ryker, Jr., a pioneer in America's space program, died Sunday, May 7, 2006, at his home in Santa Clarita, California. Ryker, one of the most highly regarded engineers in the country, was a key figure in the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. He was well known for his contributions to the space pro gram and also for his expertise in applying space technology to other fields and for his skills in solving problems, turning companies around, and fostering good management-employee relationships. Apollo Program Ryker was involved from the beginning with the United States' mission to put a man on the moon. As Project Engineer, he led the Rockwell (then North American Aviation) engineering team that won the contract to develop the Apollo command and service modules. During the Apollo Program, Ryker led or participated in NASA task forces that selected the lunar landing concept, established the Apollo flight development plan, and established the Apollo spacecraft configuration. He was also a major spokesman for the Apollo program, having been interviewed by the major networks about the program on multiple occasions. After the Apollo I fire, he led the teams that redesigned the command module. Ryker's early technical career in missile and spacecraft engineering culminated with the first successful lunar landing (he was then Vice President of Engineering of Rockwell International's Space Division). After the lunar landing, he was asked by Rocketdyne to apply his knowledge to other industries. From 1970-1974 Ryker served as Vice President of General Manager, Commercial Presses; Vice President Operations; Vice President, Research and Engineering at Miehle, Goss, and Dexter and created group research and engineering teams to introduce new technology into printing press design and manufacture. In 1974, h e became President of the Transportation Division of Rockwell International, using his expertise for the manufacture of undercarriages for trains. Space Shuttle Pioneer In 1976, Ryker was appointed President of Rockwell International Corporation (formerly North American Rockwell and North American Aviation), coming in at a time when technical and manufacturing problems threatened the space shuttle program. He reestablished NASA's confidence in the program and Rocketdyne's prestige as the world's la rgest liquid rocket company. Rocketdyne's major achievement during his tenure was the design and production of the engines for the Space Shuttle: the world's first reusable main liquid hydrogen rocket engines. The company also won new programs, including Missile X fourth-stage and high-energy laser programs leading to participation in the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). After Rockwell After the operational successes of the space shuttle engines, Ryker left his post as President of Rocketdyne (h e had been with the company from 1951-1983) and accepted a position with Pneumo Corporation (an aerospace company with manufacturing companies), where he became the President and Chief Executive Officer. He later became Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cross and Trecker Corporation, a major machine tool manufacturer. Leadership Throughout his career, Ryker was known for his leadership skill in effecting corporate "turn-arounds." In contrast to the "slash-and-burn" style, Ryker focused e xecutive attention on analyzing the situation and solving problems - not on finding a person to blame. He valued integrity, discipline, and teamwork, and believed that engaging the staff was the key to effective problem identification and resolution. Ryker insisted "Most people are interested in doing a good job. If they are not able to do the job, though trying, they may just be in the wrong job. The management needs to assist in finding them a job in the company more suited to their talents." He believed in leading by example and in being "fair, firm, and fast." Those, however, who intentionally made mistakes or were dishonest were fired. Ryker retired in 1991. Participant in Heart Research In 1965, Ryker and four other executives at the Space Division suffered heart attacks. Only two survived. The heart attack threatened his career since the prevailing medical treatment at the time was to limit any source of stress. Ryker was unwilling to live with that limitation. Instead he sought and found a phy sician willing to pioneer new treatment: strict diet and exercise. His remarkable recovery and the exercise program established by the Space Division for him and other staff members were profiled on national news in an interview by Cleve Roberts; in addition, reports of the success of this new approach appeared in peer-reviewed medical journals. Staying Active After recovering from his heart attack, Ryker remained physically active. He developed an interest in horses and competed in quarter-horse cut ting events. In his 60s, he took up polo. In later life, he suffered from lyme's disease, which went undiagnosed for ten years, leading to significant nerve damage, which interfered with his activities. When he could no longer ride, he still continued with his rigorous daily work-outs. In his mid-seventies, after moving to Seattle, he became an avid fan of Seattle Opera and its general director, Speight Jenkins. He was most impressed with the technological sophistication of the company's productions an d with the extraordinary emotional impact of the music. Military Service Ryker served in the United States Armed Forces May 1944 to July 1946 and became a sergeant. While in the military, he was one of the men recruited to work on the Atomic Bomb. The war came to an end, however, before he was scheduled to participate in that project. His military decorations and citations include the Victory Medal, American Theater Ribbon, and Good Conduct Medal. Honors and Awards Aeronautical Engineering: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts, Elected Fellow, 1983 National Aeronautical and Space Administration, Certificate of Appreciation, 1969 Production Engineering: Institute for Advancement of Engineering, George Washington Award, 1981 Institute of Production Engineers of the United Kingdom (Ryker was the first American elected Companion), 1981 National Society of Professional Engineers, Industrial Technology Award, 1979 Sigma Xi, National Scientific Honorary Society, Elect ed Member 1949 Management: California Society of Professional Engineers, Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award, 1983 General Management National Management Association, Silver Knight of Management, 1979 National Aeronautical and Space Administration, Distinguished Public Service Award, 1981 (NASA's highest award for non-government employees) Education B.S. Civil Engineering, Cum Laude, University of California, Berkeley M.S. Civil Engineering, University of California, Ber keley Advanced Management Program, Harvard University Survivors Ryker is survived by his daughters, Jeanne Flores of Santa Clarita, California, Tina Ryker of Renton, Washington, Victoria Risley of Rochester, Illinois, and Kathryn Stewart of El Paso, Texas; and by his son, Norman, J. Ryker, III, of Chico, California. He is also survived by his sisters, Jackie Loyer of Roy, Washington, and Lynn Larsen of Puyallup, Washington; by his brother, .... Risley of Rochester, Illinois, and Kathryn Stewart of El Paso, Texas; and by his son, Norman, J. Ryker, III, of Chico, California. He is also survived by his sisters, Jackie Loyer of Roy, Washington, and Lynn Larsen of Puyallup, Washington; by his brother, Brad Ryker of Tacoma, Washington; by his eight grandchildr en; and by his former wives, Kathleen Ryker of Renton, Washington, and Judy Schneider of Maryland. Services will be held at the Old North Church at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, at 10:30 a.m., Monday, May 15, 2006. The family requests that memorial contributions be sent to the University of California, Berkeley Engineering Fund (208 McLaughlin Hall, #1722, Berkeley, California, 94720), or to Seattle Opera (P.O. Box 9248, Se
Published in the Los Angeles Daily News on 5/14/2006.
Guest Book • Funeral home info • Flowers • Gift Shop • Charities
Published in the Los Angeles Daily News on 5/14/2006.
Notice • Guest Book • Funeral home info
Flowers • Gift Shop • Charities