Meet Col. Thad Sandford (Ret.)
From his decorated Air Force career developing aerospace technologies, to his private sector work driving innovation in defense systems, and now his role on the Foundation Board, Col. Thad Sandford’s life has been distinguished by his commitment to service.
Now retired and living with his wife in Fullerton, Col. Sandford counts family among his proudest accomplishments. He has two adult children, four grandchildren, and three brothers with whom he remains close. Yet even with his busy family life, he finds time to participate in many civic and charitable organizations.
“I hope people think that I really made a difference,” he says.
Judging by his honors and accomplishments, he made an impact.
Recipient of both the Air Force Legion of Merit, with an oak leaf cluster, and the Meritorious Service Medal, Col. Sandford holds a bachelor’s in Engineering and a doctorate in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M, and a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee Space Institute. He also graduated from the Naval War College and the National War College.
In the Air Force, he specialized in research and development, largely within the space program. Col. Sandford then moved into the private sector, ultimately landing at Boeing. He retired as vice president for engineering, where his work within the Integrated Defense Systems unit helped support the advanced technology that powers America’s military.
Sandford says he first heard the call to serve as a teenager in Cleburne, Texas.
“I was a senior in high school when the Russians launched the first satellite, Sputnik,” he recalls. “Our nation reacted to that with a strong push for people to go into technology.”
“Everyone taking advanced math at my high school was encouraged to go into engineering. For me, it wasn’t even a decision — I wanted to get right into research and development.”
That path ultimately led Col. Sandford to play a part in many notable aerospace advances, from Titan solid rocket boosters to 11 different experimental “X-plane” programs.
Col. Sandford says his father’s influence played a key role in his own success. “His integrity and strong work ethic, and his willingness to tackle all sorts of things without fear and with gusto — those are big influences,” he says. “He was very innovative.”
For the Foundation Board, Col. Sandford hopes to apply the leadership and innovation skills he’s learned throughout his career, particularly in the use of health care technology.
“Modern health care is a product of technology,” he says. “My particular focus is to see where technology can improve it. I think that’s good for the hospital, and for health care in general.”
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