Julian M. Earls – Black History Month

Julian M. Earls

My blog today is about Julian M. Earls, the former director of NASA’s John Glenn Research Center and best known as NASA’s first Black section head, first black office chief, first black division chief, and first black deputy director.


Earls earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Norfolk State University, went on to earn his master’s degree in radiation biology from the Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and in the same year, came to the NASA Lewis Research Center as a physicist. During his years at NASA, he would earn both a doctorate in public health in radiation physics as well as the equivalent of a master’s of public health in environmental health from the University of Michigan. While raising to the ranks of executive positions at NASA, he completed a Professional Managerial Diploma course at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He has been awarded several honorary doctors degrees, including: Honorary Doctor of Science Degree by the College of Aeronautics in New York, the Honorary Doctor of Pedagogy Degree from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from North Carolina A&T State University. Now retired, Earls has earned 10 university degrees over his career.


Dr. Earls was a trailblazer for diversity. at NASA. He was the NASA Lewis Research Center’s first African American section head, office chief, division chief and deputy director. At NASA, he wrote over 28 publications for technical and educational journals and wrote the first health physics guides used at NASA. Earls managed an annual budget of approximately $773 million and oversaw a workforce of over 3,000 civil service employees and service contractors. Over his career, he has been committed to empowering others to prepare, seek and excel in new leadership positions. In fact, Dr. Earls is the founder of the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology—an endowment that raises scholarships for black tech students at historically black institutions.


Earls has been awarded multiple NASA medals for exceptional achievement and outstanding leadership and has received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive. Additionally, he has received The Laurel Wreath Award, the highest award presented to a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, a fraternity he joined at Norfolk State University in 1963. Earls was also a 1986 inductee into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame’s inaugural class (a notable recipient includes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).