Who was Dawn Brooke Owens?
Brooke was a beloved friend and colleague to many in the aerospace industry. Coming from humble beginnings in a small mining company town (population: ~2,750) just outside of Death Valley National Park, Brooke managed to make a lasting impact on the industry through talent, character, and sheer determination.
Always an excellent student—she was valedictorian of her high school class… of two people, as she liked to point out—Brooke was an alumna of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the International Space University. Professionally, she worked at the NASA's Johnson Space Center’, the non-profit XPRIZE Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Brooke also committed herself to whole-hearted service. Supporting organizations such as AidChild and Mercy’s Village International, Brooke was passionate about making her world a better place by supporting children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis, ending human trafficking, fighting poverty, and empowering girls and women.
Outside of work and her philanthropic efforts, Brooke was a caring, warm, and adventurous spirit. She was an accomplished pilot, and spent many of her happiest moments flying. She found time to go kayaking, run triathlons, become a party DJ, perform at spoken word events, and a million other things.
Brooke was the sort of person for whom no amount of time on this Earth would have been enough to do all that she wanted to do. Thankfully, she was also the sort of person who lived life to its fullest, and found joy in every moment.
She is dearly missed by an international community of friends, colleagues, mentors, mentees, and loved ones.
What Brooke Meant to Us
Cassie Kloberdanz Lee on Brooke:
My friendship with Brooke was an adventure that spanned three continents and almost 10 years. Brooke’s influence made a positive impact on my career and an even bigger impact on my life. It is an honor to celebrate the energy and spirit that she brought to the industry and into the lives of those lucky enough to have called her a friend.
The Honorable Lori B. Garver on Brooke:
Brooke’s work at the White House and OMB was absolutely critical to the progress made during transition and in the early years of the Obama Administration. Her expertise, tenacity and innovative approach as a budget analyst helped craft the programs that are transforming NASA into a 21st century space agency.
When I shared with Brooke that I was considering leaving NASA for the Air Line Pilots Association, she said I should go for it and reminded me that she was a pilot and that her career goals included running an airport. When the ALPA pilots put me in the Boeing 777 simulator to test their new GM, it was Brooke who coached me through it ("small moves Garver, small moves"). Neither Brooke nor myself have ever been known for “small moves” – but she knew just what to say and kept me from embarrassing myself.
My goal in helping establish the Brooke Owens Fellowship is to create opportunities for more young women like Brooke to have careers in aviation and space, while at the same time assuring our community benefits from their involvement.
I have two wonderful sons who adored Brooke – one wrote a song for her called “From Up Here.” I love Brooke Owens like a daughter and our family will never be the same without her. I’m looking forward to mentoring other amazing women through the Fellowship – I always wanted a big family.
Rebecca Spyke Keiser, PhD on Brooke:
Brooke and I worked together when I was at NASA and Brooke was at the Office of Management and Budget at the White House. At NASA I was charged with helping to implement the Administration’s space policy. Brooke was an incredible colleague. She was serious about her role and responsibility as part of the White House and believed strongly in the need to carry out the President’s space policy. And, she often spoke candidly and worked with me as a partner to make sure we were successful. Brooke and I shared a passion for space, both public and commercial efforts, and we wanted to see both the government and the private sector space activities succeed. We worked together to develop the National Space Transportation Policy to assist in these efforts. Brooke always demonstrated intelligence, a sense of humor, and dedication to the task at hand for the greater good.
Serina Diniega, PhD on Brooke:
Brooke was a classmate and a dear friend at the International Space University, where we shared deep passions for space, adventures, and dark chocolate. Brooke was always striving for more in life, from taking a small chance to making the world a better place -- and her actions inspired me and helped me strive for more and better as well. It was with Brooke that I could talk about the deficiencies I felt as I was building my dream career in space exploration, but not be sufficiently in touch with the world and its people. It was Brooke who helped me find ways to include both my social activist interests and my STEM passions, and thus not lose sight of what really matters, over both the short- and long-term.
Will Pomerantz on Brooke:
Brooke was a dear friend, a talented classmate, a trusted co-worker, a wonderful housemate, an always-willing co-conspirator, and an adventurous international travel partner. She was our inspiration and our comic relief. She was an idea-a-minute, bonafide innovator who pushed all of us to do more and to do better. I feel immeasurably lucky to have known her.