CSU alum named President of Aero Systems at Woodward

Roger Ross on the manufacturing floor at Woodward's Drake campus.
Roger Ross on the manufacturing floor at Woodward’s Drake campus.

CSU mechanical engineering alum Roger Alan Ross (B.S., ‘91; M.S., ‘94) has been named the President of Aero Systems at Woodward. Ross is an accomplished global leader with over 25 years of experience in the aerospace industry.

Ross’ new position will have direct oversight of Woodward’s actuation and component business serving the commercial and defense aircraft, rotorcraft, weapons and space markets – namely products that move parts on the aircraft.

Aerospace is increasingly relevant to our daily lives and demands in different sectors will present Ross with unique problems to solve. The technologies in development at Woodward help aircraft to be lighter and more efficient. For consumers, that enables airlines to charge less for tickets as airline transport demands continue to grow.

Communications demands also push the satellite industry to support growing bandwidth needs and innovate faster. The challenge is in finding balance. Safety always comes first when considering design and manufacturing, but products that ensure safety often weigh more.

“What is extremely important is investing in the right technologies that will be maturing in 20-30 years,” said Ross. “We must align the resources, find the right minds, and identify the best environments for innovation.”

Ross welcomes the challenge. He enjoys working in a highly technical field surrounded by some of the world’s brightest minds. Their work is shaping the future.

“Woodward is a likeminded, technical company that has a deeply embedded, hardworking, and positive culture,” he said. “Folks are excited to do the work they do.”

The path to aerospace

During his time at CSU, Ross specialized in materials science. As a graduate student, he wrote his thesis on chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

Through that research, Ross landed a job with aerospace company Goodrich in Pueblo, Colorado. Their main products are brakes for aircraft made by using the CVD process. It was a great match and began Ross’ career path in aerospace engineering.

Ross worked at Goodrich while simultaneously finishing his MBA, until the company was acquired by United Technologies. Ross spent more than two decades with United Technologies and earned the title of Senior Vice President.

Ross describes the aerospace industry with humor and sincerity. “It’s hard to keep products a secret if they’re out on the airplane, and because parts of an airplane need to work 100% of the time, the industry has evolved into a highly collaborative field with spirited competition.”

“One of the things I liked best about CSU was the hands-on learning opportunities. Rather than learning in a classroom, the curriculum included projects that partnered with local companies to solve real world problems.”

Advice to aerospace students

Ross’ experience in the aerospace industry is something he wants to pass on to current students.

“Find your passion and follow the right path,” he advises. “There are many engineering disciplines, each is a bit different and very challenging.”

By specializing in specific coursework and internships, Ross said that students can make a name for themselves. Interning with companies helps students learn how to communicate in real-world situations. It’s critical to communicate succinctly within a company’s culture.

Above all, Ross suggests the most important thing to keep in mind: “Even if you aren’t the world’s best student, you will find success and have fun as long as you pursue what you love.”

Woodward and CSU

Woodward has a long and successful history of working with researchers at CSU. Collaborative efforts have greatly benefitted both the university and Woodward, resulting in an enormous exchange of knowledge. Woodward partners with multiple departments within the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering including mechanical engineering and systems engineering.

CSU is grateful to have Woodward as a strategic industry partner. Support spans over 40 years and has made a number of key programs possible for the college, including the endowed Woodward Professorship in systems engineering, senior design and research sponsorship, and donations to support faculty and graduate student research at the Energy Institute.

When asked how he sees the Woodward-CSU partnership evolving, Ross responds, “The need to shift paradigms is essential in transitioning emerging technologies. Research is our link to ‘what could be’. I absolutely see the partnership continuing.”