Recognizing a distinguished leader in the global aerospace industry

SAE International awards Saunders its prestigious Medal of Honor.

Respect. Esteem. Distinction. All words that define “honor”—and that demonstrate the significance of SAE International’s prestigious Medal of Honor, an award that recognizes an SAE Member’s unique and significant contributions that strengthen the organization’s ability to further its purpose. This year, that honor goes to Gregory Saunders, Director of the Defense Standardization Program Office in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

An SAE Member for more than two decades, Saunders was recognized for his years of outstanding and distinguished leadership within SAE International in the areas of global standardization, and for advancing the role and value of SAE standards and certification programs throughout the world.

“The contributions made by Mr. Saunders have directly led to the worldwide growth and recognition of SAE International as the premier standards organization for the global aerospace industry,” said Laura Hitchcock, Senior Standards Specialist at Boeing, who nominated Saunders for the award. “They have resulted in SAE playing an increasingly larger role in meeting the standards needs of the global engineering community by being more agile, responsive, and robust in ways which help SAE better fulfill its vision and mission.”

A past chairman of the board of ASTM International, Saunders served on the board of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is a fellow at SAE, where he served on the board as the Aerospace Vice President and chaired both the Aerospace Council and the Technical Standards Board. He has also chaired or served on various other committees, councils, and boards both in the government and with standards-developing organizations. He is the U.S. representative to two NATO Committees and represents the DoD on the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy.

“He has been a strong leader in SAE International, whose actions, activities, and efforts have led to SAE being the undisputed global leader in standards and certification programs for the aerospace industry,” Hitchcock adds. “He’s helped leverage the lessons learned and the increased global presence made on the aerospace standards side to benefit the broader range of SAE’s programs and services across the entire society and all the mobility sectors.”

For Saunders, winning the Medal of Honor is somewhat of a pinnacle to the award success he’s seen over his long career.

“One of the most gratifying things that happens in a career is to be recognized by your peers, by people you respect, as someone who has been successful and has made a difference. Being awarded the SAE Medal of Honor is sort of the ultimate prize within this amazing organization,” Saunders says. “I’ve worked in the trenches and at the Board level with SAE. I’ve led some changes and I’ve worked with some amazing people over the 20-plus years that I’ve been involved. It is so very gratifying and affirming that those people think that my work with SAE is worthy of such an honor.”

In his professional role, Saunders presides over his office’s own awards program and takes great joy in presenting awards to deserving individuals. In fact, he opened his last awards program with lyrics from The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things,” because “presenting awards is one of my favorite things!” he says. That’s why he believes so strongly in SAE’s awards program and the fact that it goes a long way toward advancing the future of the mobility industry through its recognition of deserving individuals who do meaningful work that may otherwise go unnoticed.

“Engineers, and especially those involved with standards, generally labor in the shadows—doing what they do because it is the right thing, not because they anticipate winning an award,” he says. “But when a society of engineers makes a fuss over those ‘right things’ by presenting an award, the accomplishments are highlighted, others are inspired to do likewise, bosses congratulate and, more importantly, support continued engagement in the important work”.

“Without that commitment by the thousands of dedicated engineers, technicians, academicians, and others to work in the trenches, and the support of the managers who see those people being recognized and rewarded for their work, the advancement of the state of the art would be much poorer,” he concludes. “Whether it is the development of a standard, a research paper, a presentation at a conference, or an article in a peer-reviewed journal, the work of those who are recognized by SAE awards spreads engineering knowledge and engineering excellence across our industry.”

For information about SAE International’s awards program—or to nominate a deserving individual today—visit

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