James M. Free will become the next director of the John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced today.
Free will succeed Ramon "Ray" Lugo III, who will retire in January after leading Glenn since July 2010. Free has been Glenn's deputy director since January 2011.
"Jim is an outstanding leader who I know will do great things as the director of Glenn," Bolden said. "I also want to thank Ray for his years of leadership and dedicated service at NASA, for a long while on the team at the Kennedy Space Center and, most recently, while guiding Glenn Research Center through a pivotal time for that center, the City of Cleveland, and the nation. Ray has been a tireless leader and we wish him and his family well."
Free, a native of northeast Ohio, began his NASA career in 1990. Prior to being named deputy director, he served as the director of Space Flight Systems at Glenn in 2009, where he was responsible for overseeing the management of the center's activities that included significant roles in the agency's space missions. He also was chief of Glenn's Orion Projects Office and responsible for all Orion-related work at the center.
Free's technical expertise and leadership abilities were evident as the Orion Test and Verification Manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston from 2008 through 2009. He began his career at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., as a propulsion engineer, and later became a system engineer on NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.
Free earned his bachelor's degree in aeronautics from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and his master's degree in space systems engineering from Delft University in the Netherlands. He is a recipient of a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the Civil Service Excellence Award.
Lugo's retirement brings to a close a 37-year career at NASA. In 1975, he began working at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a cooperative education student. In his first assignment as an engineer, he was responsible for construction modifications to Launch Complex 39A in preparation for the first space shuttle launch.
Prior to his appointment as Glenn's center director, Lugo served as deputy director from August 2007 to July 2010. Since becoming a member of the Senior Executive Service in 2001, he served in several other leadership positions, including Deputy Program Manager of NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy. Lugo has received numerous honors, including two NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals and three NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals.