Founders Award 2023

Michael Hirsch ’73

The Founders Award was created by the merger of the Whitaker-Bement Award and the Samuel and Emily Williston Award, and honors the founders and principles of the Northampton School for Girls and Williston Academy. It is awarded to an individual whose loyalty, devotion, and service to the Williston Northampton School has been outstanding.

Michael Hirsch ’73 was a four-year boarding student who participated in theatre while at Williston. He has been an Elm Tree member since 2016 and joined our Head’s Visiting Council in 2018, now acting as an Emeritus member. Michael has donated to the school for 35 consecutive years and attended every class Reunion since 1993.

After graduating from Williston in 1973, Michael received a degree in Chemistry from Columbia University and briefly attended UCLA for graduate work in Physical Chemistry before embarking on a distinguished forty-five-year career in aerospace engineering.

Michael held various engineering and management roles throughout his career on communications satellites, weather reporting systems, and scientific observation missions.

A particular interest for Michael were science instruments and specifically, space telescopes. He was privileged to work on several of NASA’s Great Observatories including the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The capstone of his career was his involvement with the James Webb Space Telescope from the proposal through build phase where he served as Risk Manager and Manager of Mission Excellence. Since his retirement in 2013, Michael has continued to consult for aerospace companies.

In addition to his ongoing work with the Head’s Visiting Council, Michael has volunteered in a variety of organizations, including leading the South Bay/Santa Monica chapter of MathCounts; serving as a board member, Vice President, and, finally, Treasurer of the El Camino College Foundation; teaching woodturning classes at the college and leading the local Woodturning Guild.

I have really enjoyed getting to know Michael as a class and school volunteer – someone who has made a very positive impact on Williston — so it is a great honor to invite Michael Hirsch, class of 1973, up to the podium to receive this year’s Founders Award.

Watch the presentation