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Aerospace engineer settles into quiet life

Brian Tichenor developed spacecraft material, now enjoying retirement in Marion

Staff writer

Brian Tichenor, 65, of Marion grew up in Burrton and attended college at Emporia State University. His drives to and from school usually took him down U.S.-50, but he occasionally swung through Marion and Hillsboro.

Now, after 38 years as a materials engineer, he and his wife, Jill, have decided to retire in Marion to be near family and enjoy a quieter life. They moved from Houston, Texas, in 2018.

Tichenor has a sister in Mt. Hope and a brother in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It’s quiet here,” he said, “although not as quiet as I thought it would be. It’s a busy street.”

Their home on Denver St. is along Eisenhower Rd., a thoroughfare between U.S.-56 and Marion’s Main St.

Tichenor has had a distinguished career in the aerospace industry. While seeking a physics degree at ESU, he took a course in materials science, and that one course set him on his future path. He credits his physics teacher and adviser, James Calvert, for steering him into it.

He obtained a master’s degree from Wichita State and then worked at Boeing for six years.

He moved to Dallas to work at developing materials for the B2 stealth bomber for LTV Corp., an aerospace and defense company that later became part of Lockheed Martin. The Cold War between the U.S. and Russia was still running hot at the time.

The company had contracts with the National Aeronautics Space Agency, and soon Tichenor found himself involved in the investigation of the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986 and later the Columbia space shuttle breakup over Texas in 2003.

He began working for Lockheed Martin’s plant in Houston in 2005 and helped develop materials for the space station. His crew developed materials for the Patriot cruise missile and the spacecraft Orion.

After the financial panic of 2008, NASA programs were cut back, and there were a lot of layoffs. Tichenor said the spacecraft division of Lockheed Martin was the only one that was not cut, although his crew was trimmed from 30 to four or five engineers.

“I worked 38 years and was never laid off,” he said.

Because of an ongoing health problem, he retired early in 2015. He goes twice a year to Montana for treatments, and Marion puts him a lot closer to his doctors than being in Houston, he said.

He and Jill were married in 2008.

“She’s been essential to me,” he said. “It’s gotten better.”

Jill delivers meals on wheels for Marion Senior Center and transports people to doctor’s appointments for Marion County Department on Aging. She also works in the community garden.

The couple has two rescue dogs — Athena, a Brindle Boxer, and Scruffy, a poodle mix. They also are fostering an Australian cattle dog named Darcy.

“We’ve enjoyed it here,” Tichenor said. “I love my neighbors. They are great.”

The couple has created two legacy gifts for Emporia State University: the first, the James Calvert Endowed Professorship in Physical Sciences to honor the man Tichenor credits with guiding him on his career path; the second, investment in the Physical Sciences Summer Camp Program that was pivotal in determining his educational direction.

Last modified Jan. 23, 2020

 

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