2003 COMMUNICATOR AWARD RECIPIENT
Elliot PulhamSpace Communicator Award: Elliot Pulham
[Dyson, Marianne, 2003 RNASA Program Book, March 14, 2003]
Please see the Space Foundation for a current bio.
The RNASA Foundation selected Elliot G. Pulham for its Space Communicator Award for his unique and diverse contributions to the public's awareness and understanding of our nation's space programs — civil, commercial and military.
Pulham is the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Space Foundation and leads this globally respected non-profit organization in the pursuit of its mission to vigorously advance and support civil, commercial and national security space endeavors and educational excellence.
One semester short of his degree in Journalism from the University of Hawaii, Pulham was snapped up by an eager employer. "I was in the program and got offers from two Honolulu papers," he said. Pulham worked a number of newspaper and public relations jobs during what he calls his "very checkered past." "I've done lots of interesting things," he said. "As a communicator to a broad audience, it helps to have a diversity of experiences to bring reality to your communications."
One of Pulham's most interesting jobs was as Director of Public Affairs for Hawaiian Airlines. "The industry was wild about deregulation, opening new routes every month - this month Guam and next month Frankfort," he said. "It was the kind of job that was perfect for my younger self."
Pulham left his native Hawaii because of the economy and found opportunity in Seattle. "I had worked on a Hawaiian project involving space," he said. "So instead of going to the Boeing airplane company, I sought out the space group. Those guys were impressed that I even knew they existed," he joked. "They hired me."
Saving the Station
From 1988 to 1998, Pulham worked for The Boeing Company. He was senior manager of public relations, employee communication and advertising for all space programs. He served as the Director of Corporate Communication for the Boeing Employees Good Neighbor Fund - a united giving campaign that raised $18 million in a single year for health and human service agencies.
Pulham moved to Huntsville when Boeing was put in charge of the Space Station Work Packages. In 1993, the space station funding survived Congress by only one vote. Kari Allen was head of PR for Boeing in Houston and worked for Pulham. "During the early days of Space Station when hardware was just getting built, Elliot was Boeing Communications director over the program," Allen said. "He was convinced that if we could tell the general public about the many benefits of ISS science, research and education that they would become true supporters. To that end Elliot led a grassroots, advocacy campaign for ISS that resulted in thousands of letters, mailed from people all over the country, to our Congressional leaders touting the importance of keeping the program sold. Congress overwhelmingly agreed."
Jim Keller, Boeing's lead PR person in Huntsville, also reported to Pulham. "He is just a very creative, energetic, person who is a real visionary for what needs to be done," Keller said. "He's very good at strategically looking at different ways to approach something - refreshing, instead of the same-old same-old. You've heard the term that there's a lot of ways to skin a cat. Well, Elliot knows them all!" Keller said. "He led the grassroots campaign. We took our program people and hit the road with them, doing editorials, being on TV talk shows, radio shows, and traveling to parts unknown. It was a broad industry team, not just Boeing, but McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell and others," Keller added.
The campaign resulted in Space Station passing Congress by a 2 to 1 vote. Pulham's leadership earned him the coveted Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America - the profession's highest honor.
After the campaign, Pulham returned to Seattle. From 1995-97 he was Deputy Chairman, then Chairman, of the Space Awareness Alliance. This coalition of 30 corporations and non-profit organizations conducted national public affairs activities on behalf of America's space programs. He was a spokesperson at the Kennedy Space Center for the Magellan, Galileo and Ulysses interplanetary missions, among others. "Elliot is a gifted writer and he uses that gift to express his passion about space," Allen said. "Elliot was (and still is) a true space cadet and a believer that space is indeed our future."
Pulham joined The Space Foundation in 1998. He served as Executive Vice President, leading the Space Foundation's public affairs, customer relations, corporate development, communications and marketing teams before becoming President in 2001.
As Executive Director of the Space Foundation, Pulham leads a team of space and education professionals providing services to educators and the space industry around the world. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, the Space Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is, "To vigorously advance and support civil, commercial and national security space endeavors and educational excellence."
The Foundation's Vice President for Marketing & Communications, Jim Jannette, met Pulham when Jannette worked for McDonnell Douglas and Pulham was with Boeing. "It was that experience that he gained through his tenure at Boeing that allowed him to really understand space and what it took to be successful," Jannette said. "He is not only a true leader, but an inspirational one to work with day to day as well. He raises the bar every year on what we are going to be."
The Space Foundation's education program is accredited through 17 universities and colleges, and has touched teachers in 49 states. The Foundation offers an on-site NASA Educational Resource Center that helps educators access and use science, mathematics, and technology instruction products aligned with national standards and appropriate state frameworks. More than 20,000 teachers have learned to use space in their classrooms through graduate courses and national conferences.
A Driving Force for Space
Each April the Space Foundation hosts the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the military space capitol of the world and home to NORAD and Air Force Space Command. Pulham noted recently that, "We are committed to ensuring that this remains the premier space event anywhere in the world."
Attendance at the symposiums has grown from 400 to over 4,500 in the past five years. "You can see just by sheer numbers the kind of growth the symposium has experienced under Elliot's leadership," Jannette said. "It is the one space meeting that people say, 'We have to attend that one.' Under Elliot's leadership, we've been able to attract the very top leadership, nationally and internationally." New this year was a Communicator's Workshop to help journalists and public relations managers better cover space events and benefits.
Throughout his time with the Foundation, Pulham has provided essential leadership in expanding the reach and influence of the Foundation. He was the driving force behind the creation and development of the Foundation's International Space Symposium and development of the new Masters degree program.
"I was one of those kids that wrote to NASA for posters during the launching of Gemini and Apollo," Pulham said. "I particularly remember the exploded-view poster of the Gemini capsule. I was really captivated by that. I never had good math skills and didn't think that I could work in the space industry. Part of what I'm doing in the Foundation is to develop not only interest in math and science, but also in the creative and artistic areas."
Pulham has effectively combined his unique knowledge with his outstanding professional communications skills to bring important issues regarding our industry to national prominence, to enhance the public's view of the value of space exploration and development, and to inspire academic achievement using the excitement of space. "He is a great mentor and leader for all of us at the Foundation," Jannette said.
A resident of Colorado Springs, when he's not out promoting space, Pulham may be found skiing, motorcycling, hiking or camping in the Colorado Rockies with his wife, Cynthia, and son, William.