R.A. Long High School Alumni Association
pride in a rich tradition
Wed, 21 Mar 2018

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Paul Laufman (1956) - Hall of Fame

Paul Laufman
Lifetime Achievement

Paul Laufman grew up in Longview and in his own words; “ I grew up in the 1950’s and was a teenager in Longview at that time.  It doesn’t get any better than that.”  Paul was on the basketball and baseball teams while attending R.A. Long, he has been remembered by some of his classmates as a promising baseball player.  He played recreational fas pitch during the spring and summer while attending Lower Columbia College.  Paul had another love and that was science which was encouraged by his trigonometry teacher, Ms. Jessie Virtue.  A book on the building of the Grand Coulee Dam inspired him to study engineering in college, he graduated from Washington State University in 1961 with a degree in mechanical engineering.  After college Paul’s career choices ranged from designing transmissions for a forklift company in Portland to working on the nation’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Minuteman, with Hercules, Inc.  He chose the latter.  According to Paul “That wasn’t much of a  contest.  I was intrigued, I suppose.  At that time, I didn’t even know which end the fire came out but it was kind of a romantic field, and it still is.”  At the time according to Paul, demand for engineers was at a peak because of the Cold War.  In this new field of rockets, companies wanted and needed engineers rapidly to catch up with the Russians.  Paul was put into a position of large responsibility, but he didn’t know that at the time, he just thought this was what engineering is, but it wasn’t, as he learned over time. This young man, pretty wet behind the ears was given a pretty substantial role at 22.  In 1966 Paul took a job with Lockheed at its propulsion division.  He led the team that designed an escape motor for the Apollo 11 launch vehicle that would pull the astronauts to safety if something went amiss on takeoff.  Paul recently had his name engraved on the “Wall of Honor” at the new Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Paul and his wife currently reside in California.