Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

James Shields ’71, SM ’72

Leading Draper Laboratory into new fields.

As president of Draper Laboratory, a nonprofit organization devoted to developing guidance, navigation, and control technology for space exploration and defense systems, James Shields faced both funding challenges and opportunities for growth.

James Shields ’71, SM ’72

“The last couple of years have been a challenging environment, with the size of the defense budget coming down and with sequestration, budgets for 90 days at a time, and government shutdowns,” says Shields, who joined Draper in 2001 as vice president of programs and retired as president and CEO in ­October.

This story is part of the May/June 2015 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Yet during his years at Draper, he increased revenue by nearly 60 percent and expanded the organization’s strategic scope to include biomedical and energy systems. He built new government-industry partnerships and led or contributed to studies on topics ranging from electronic warfare to integrating sensor-­collected intelligence. He also presided over Draper celebrations honoring NASA’s moon landing, a feat supported by Draper’s navigation and guidance technologies, as well as the lab’s founding 80 years ago by MIT professor Charles Stark “Doc” Draper. The lab became independent from MIT in 1973.

Shields earned two MIT degrees in electrical engineering and began his career at TASC, the analytic research firm founded in 1966 by Arthur Gelb, ScD ’61, in Reading, Massachusetts. “I went in figuring I would stay about three years and outgrow the company,” he recalls. Instead, he stayed for 28 years and became vice president for strategic planning as TASC became a $300 million enterprise with 3,000 employees. “As the company grew, there were always new things for me to do,” he says, but “the opportunity to go to Draper to figure out how to make a national resource relevant for the 21st century was too good to pass up.”

He credits his steady management style to time spent living at—and ultimately running—Delta Tau Delta: “The fraternity environment is a really interesting leadership development situation—getting to be president of a group of 40 guys, figuring out how to run a budget, manage a house, and keep everyone from killing each other.” Shields also worked as an assistant coach to the first-year and varsity basketball teams and still plays for the MIT Club of Boston. He was chapter advisor for DTD for 25 years and a member of the Alumni Fund and the Alumni Association boards.

Shields is now a consultant, and his wife, Gayle Merling, is a retired attorney. They have two children: Michael Shields ’07 is a mechanical engineer, and Elizabeth Shields, who went to Harvard, completed her senior biomedical engineering design project in MIT’s Biomechatronics Group.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
Next in MIT News
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.