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October 2020 | Orlando Gutierrez, The Passing of a SHPE Giant copy


Orlando Gutierrez, The Passing of a SHPE Giant

Many people have passed through SHPE in its almost 50-year history. Some are transitory, few years and they are gone, some stay for the long run, some become lifetime members, and some make an impact and leave a legacy for years to come. This is a short story of one of them.

Orlando Gutierrez was President (the position of Chair of the Board was called President years back), from 1993 to 1995, a period that marked the beginning of one of SHPE’s biggest transformation, a period where SHPE started to mature into a larger professional organization with impacts on the industry, academia and government, and moving away from being just a student events group. In fact, it was Orlando, the recruiting lead for NASA since 1976, who brought NASA and SHPE into a partnership that has endured for almost three decades.

Orlando was a caring individual and mentored a significant number of people who later on became a generation of leaders for SHPE, many of which are still active in the SHPE universe.

  • Orlando recognized my contributions on the SHPE board and influenced me (unknowingly) to run for SHPE president by allowing me to have a voice on the board. As a woman I accomplished much serving on the SHPE board and Orlando made me comfortable to do so. I remember going to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Hispanic Heritage event in Washington D.C. and being so excited to attend an event where the President of the United states would be present. Orlando tried to get as many of us SHPEsters as he could to attend. It is an event I will never forget. We were friends. We had many things in common. We worked for NASA, liked our steak raw, danced salsa and had strong SHPE/STEM/Latinx advocacy. – Melissa Villegas Drake, SHPE President 1995-1997.
  • Orlando was a great mentor, a world class thermo engineer but most of all he was a tremendous friend. I will miss his chats, banter and domino games at the conference. I will miss my friend and the community loss a statesman with passion to move us all toward greater things. God bless Orlando. – Jose Rivera, SHPE President 1999-2003
  • Orlando was the catalyst for our internship program with NASA and the driving force for securing funding for our Summer Institutes. He was a very caring man with a big heart. – Diana Gomez, SHPE President 2003-2009

He was particularly good at being inclusive, not only with the Board but with students and everyone else he met and mentored over the years. He changed the lives of many of the people he interacted with, some of whom where inspired to become lifetime members of SHPE and who are involved with SHPE even to this date.

  • In 1976, I traveled to the University of New Mexico (UNM) for their career fair. It was my first recruiting trip and the first time I would lead my company’s recruiting team. Little did I know that it would be the start of a decade’s long involvement with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). It was there that I first met Orlando Gutierrez. He was the NASA recruiting team lead, so he and I were constantly vying for the top students. His vision, strategic thinking, and even temperament provided me with a Hispanic Role Model I had never had. It was his encouragement that led me to become greatly involved in SHPE for the next forty years. He was generous, gracious to all, and sympathetic. We lost a great man and there won’t be another like him. – Manny Hernandez, SHPE President 2009-2011
  • As a recipient of the HONORES scholarship, a partnership between SHPE & NASA, Orlando made an impression on me early in my career nearly 20 years ago. He helped guide and mentor me throughout my internships at NASA. Orlando would travel to the NASA’s Langley Research Center from Baltimore and take us to lunch. He would accompany us to meet our leads at NASA and the projects we were working on, but more than that, he genuinely cared about us and wanted to know about us, our goals and the things that were most important to us, like most people, my family. Over the years, I’d connect with Orlando at the conferences or an occasional call. We’d pick right back up. Orlando believed in so many of us, and if there is one thing I will continue to do to honor his legacy is to help guide and mentor enthusiastic upcoming engineers, provide opportunities, and always invest in people by building lasting connections. May you Rest in Peace Orlando I will forever remember you and carry you with me. – Nicolyn Hernandez, Board Member 2012-2016

He started the work that later on was followed by many Presidents and Chairs and formed the foundation of the SHPE we currently have today. He leaves a critically important legacy, many lives changed for the better, a long list of today’s leaders who were mentored by him, and the satisfaction of knowing he had a major impact in the Hispanic community in this country. He is survived by his five children, eight grandchildren, and his brother. He will be dearly missed by us all at SHPE. Godspeed Orlando.


We live in a constitution based federal democratic republic. That is, we have an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States under a common constitution. It is a democracy because people govern themselves. It is representative because people choose elected officials by free and secret ballot. In other words, the basic foundation of who we are as a country is based on our ability to vote, our ability to elect people that will represent us and our values at the seat of government, write the laws that govern us, and manage the economy that sustains us. It is critically important, regardless of your political affiliation, that you vote. It is not only your right; it is your duty as a free citizen of this republic.

Last election cycle more people did not vote than voted for any candidate. That means decisions that rule our lives, our safety, our future… were decided by less than half of the people entitled to decide. It is important that you add your voice this year, it is important that you have a hand in how this country is managed, however you think it should be managed. More so the people reading this article because, by definition, you are all the leaders in STEM and will grow to become the future of our society. You will be the engineers, scientists, directors, vice presidents, etc. in the near future and will be creating the technologies that drive our society’s progress forward. Thus, voting for the government that will allow you to do that, voting for whomever you believe is best at managing the country, voting for the philosophy that best aligns with your values, is critical to insure your own future. Every vote counts.

Whatever you do this year, vote. Whomever you support, vote. Is your right and your duty.

M. Alemañy
Chair, SHPE Board of Directors