CoE Alumni Spotlight

Are you a WSU CoE alum? Contact the CoE to let us know about your successes!


JPEG Image

Name: Thor Kissman
Hometown: Wichita
Married to: Michelle Kessler Kissman ’92, chief of staff for the new Boeing 702MP satellite program
Degree: 1993
Graduate work: Master of business
administration, University of California in Los Angeles, 1999

They say an engineering degree from WSU can take you anywhere you want to go. For WSU alum Thor Kissman ’93, his degree paved the way to a higher place than he ever dreamed when he helped launch the SkyTerra1 satellite from the Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan on Nov. 14, 2010. 

Kissman served as director of Boeing’s Launch Day, the culmination of four years of leadership of the design, assembly and test of the 702HP satellite built for LightSquared. 

In his role as Space Segment Program Manager, Kissman was responsible for the activities of more than 600 Boeing employees and more than 100 suppliers. Once operational, this satellite will allow personal PDA/smartphones that have a view of the southern sky to connect from
anywhere in the United States, virtually removing bad cell coverage. 

Experience-based Education in Action

Kissman graduated from WSU in 1993 and went on to work for Learjet, Northrup Grumman and Hughes Space and Communications, which was later purchased by Boeing. He received his master of business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1999. A Wichita native and graduate of Goddard High School, he served in active and reserve units of the U.S. Army Military Police, including deployment to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. 

He was briefly assisted on the SkyTerra satellite program by his wife and fellow WSU aerospace engineering alum, Michelle Kessler Kissman ’92. She works as chief of staff for the new Boeing 702MP satellite program. They met at Learjet while working to complete their aerospace
engineering undergraduate degrees. 

| “Thor and Michelle were great Wichita State students with big dreams,” said Scott Miller, WSU professor and chair of aerospace engineering. “They obviously have gone on to do big things with Boeing in California. It’s not every day people get to help send things into space, not to mention impact society in a larger way.” | 

“It is amazing to see how much the world has changed in such a short time,” said Thor Kissman. “In the 1980s, I was deployed in Western Germany during the Cold War Era. I worked with a former colonel from the Soviet Union’s Missile Command in Eastern Europe to launch a satellite that will help people connect better than ever before … all made possible, in part, by my experiences and education at Wichita State. I’m living the dream every day.”


Other notable alumni

Julie-Ellen Acosta, who has spoken at the WSU Alumni Breakfast series, has been appointed senior vice president of human resources for Boeing Commercial. Acosta received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1980 and her master’s degree in electrical engineering
in 1984 from WSU. She is a member of the Dean’s Industrial Advisory Board for the College of Engineering.

Jim Forsythe was elected state senator in District 4 in New Hampshire. He graduated from WSU in 2000 with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering.