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SPA Presents Roger W. Jones Awards

Roger W. Jones Award winners John Montgomery and Margaret Gilligan pose with their plaques, October 24. (Photo: Anne Doyle)

Last week, American University’s School of Public Affairs presented its annual Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership to Margaret Gilligan, Associate Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration; and Dr. John A. Montgomery, Director of Research, Naval Research Laboratory, Department of the Navy.

“Both Gilligan and Montgomery have demonstrated superior leadership resulting in outstanding achievements that improve the quality of everyday life for all Americans. In addition, they have  guided the careers of the next generation of federal employees, assuring that the high performance they exemplify will carry forward into the future.” said William LeoGrande, dean of American University’s School of Public Affairs. “They epitomize dedication to public service, and we challenge our students to strive to emulate these two outstanding individuals as they embark on their future careers.”

Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, founder and president of AmericaSpeaks, delivered the keynote address.

Since 1978, the Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership has recognized public servants in the federal government whose careers are marked by extraordinary effectiveness in organizational development and a strong commitment to training and educating managers and executives. In appreciation for his/her outstanding service, each recipient receives $2,500.

Margaret Gilligan, Associate Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration

Margaret Gilligan has served in numerous positions supporting the advancement of air safety in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 1980.  Gilligan got her start as a regional FAA attorney taking on challenging cases like the historic air traffic controller strikes of 1981.  She has served as Chief of Staff under four different administrators, and now as FAA’s Associate Administrator since 2009, Gilligan leads the organization responsible for setting, overseeing, and enforcing safety standards for all elements of the aviation industry.

In her current role, she has fostered unprecedented collaboration between organizations as well as within her own agency, leading to a new era in aviation safety.  The International Air Transport Association called 2010, which passed without a single commercial passenger death, the safest year in aviation history; a testimony to the incredible teamwork of the 7,400 FAA employees Gilligan oversees and the open collaboration between government and industry advanced under her leadership.  Gilligan’s office holds monthly brown bag lunches with headquarters staff and quarterly town halls broadcast across the organization, and has made personal visits to each of the FAA’s 125 international field offices. She is also a champion of employee development initiatives to include a course for new managers, a conference to share learning among middle managers, and a leadership program to prepare aspiring leaders within FAA.

For a decade Gilligan has also served as the government co-chair of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), a private-public partnership working to reducing the risk of accidents. Under Gilligan’s direction, CAST’s data-driven strategy has helped reduce fatalities in U.S. commercial aviation by 83 percent in ten years. Gilligan’s team has also brokered initiatives like a safety data sharing program with 35 participating airlines that compiles and analyzes otherwise-private data to detect trends and assess risks.

“It’s really the mission of the FAA that has kept me here for over 30 years,” said Gilligan. “It’s also exciting to work in aviation. I have the opportunity to enhance the lives of so many people, from my family and friends to people I will never know, all flying for pleasure and business.”

Dr. John Montgomery, Director of Research, Naval Research Laboratory, Department of the Navy

Dr. John Montgomery joined the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in 1968 as a research physicist in the Electronic Warfare Division. Today, as NRL’s Director of Research, Montgomery has overseen development of numerous life- and cost-saving systems for both military and commercial applications. His team has developed new technologies to solve operational problems both unusual and severe in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and for homeland defense.  A five-time Presidential Rank awardee and a long-time member of the Senior Executive Service, Montgomery has received numerous honors for his leadership at the NRL.

Montgomery has developed programs to attract and retain an elite scientific workforce, successfully competing with the private sector for top science and engineering talent. Under his leadership, the number of postdoctorates at NRL has nearly doubled to more than 130, earning the agency a stellar reputation in the U.S. and abroad.  He also established the Karles Fellowship program which sponsors accomplished young scientists for a two-year stint at NRL, and the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program in which high school students are mentored by career scientists.  During Montgomery’s tenure, NRL has also diversified its workforce with women and minorities comprising nearly half of the lab’s staff.

“At NRL, I get to rub shoulders with some of the smartest people you’ll ever know, and their commitment and enthusiasm is infectious,” said Montgomery. “NRL’s scientists and engineers have tremendous latitude to shape programs. My job is not to tell them what to do but to harness that energy, provide them the resources they need, and be a partner in getting it done. Some of my colleagues literally change the world, though it may take 20 years before their ideas mature.”

Roger Jones and the School of Public Affairs

The award is named for Roger W. Jones (1908–1993), a leader in federal government for more than four decades. Jones served as chairman of the Civil Service Commission, deputy under secretary of state for administration, and senior consultant and special assistant to the director, Bureau of the Budget. His service was distinguished by his ability to lead change based on the belief that government can mobilize human talents to accomplish goals.

Founded in 1934 and ranked among the top schools of its kind, American University’s School of Public Affairs offers education on the undergraduate, graduate, and executive levels in the fields of government, justice, public administration, public policy, and organizational development.