Reach the Stars

From youth Steve Bouley ’80 had a fascination with rockets and space travel. His high school counselor recommended he pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, and Bouley did so at URI in the late 1970s.

His senior year was eventful. As a newlywed and father of a newborn, Bouley held as many as three jobs to support his family and pay for his education. Sometimes financial pressures were acute, and Bouley’s education goals seemed as distant as the heavens he so admired.

URI eased Bouley’s financial burdens with a $1,000 grant and another $2,500 in student loans. “It was a meaningful thing,” said Bouley, now the California operations general manager for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The grant and loans “were significant in terms of what they meant for me and my future.”

Upon graduation, Bouley received 11 different job offers from nine different companies. He accepted Rocketdyne’s offer and has been with the company for 28 years. Considered the premier liquid rocket engine propulsion company in the world, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne booster engines have powered most of America’s rockets and space shuttles, sending 774 astronauts into space. Bouley has witnessed over 100 space launches; his career has fulfilled his childhood dream: “I couldn’t have imagined back then that I would be in the position that I am today. To be leading an organization that is designing the liquid propellant propulsions systems that will take America back to the moon is like a dream come true.”

Bouley wants to ensure that other students in the College of Engineering have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals. To that end, he and his wife, Rhonda C. Wilson, have pledged $50,000 to the University to fund the Steven A. Bouley and Rhonda C. Wilson Graduate Fellowship in Engineering. The pledge will be matched by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s parent company, United Technologies Corp., bringing the gift to $100,000. Moreover, Bouley, a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Council, said he and his wife intend to donate additional money to the endowment in the years to come.

“Rhonda and I believe strongly in education,” Bouley said. “I received help back then, and now I can do something to give back. It’s now my turn.”

The College of Engineering is looking to increase funding for graduate fellowships and research assistantships. “The generosity of the Bouleys will certainly enhance our efforts in this critical area,” said College of Engineering Interim Dean Ray Wright. “Maintaining the dynamic teaching and research environment URI has built depends on our ability to attract, retain, and support the research efforts of highly qualified faculty. Providing fellowships and research assistantships plays a major role in our success; a role that cannot be underestimated.”

By Marybeth Reilly-McGreen

For more information on the many giving opportunities at the University of Rhode Island, please visit our Web site at, or contact the URI Foundation, 79 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI 02881. Please call 401-874-7900 or toll free 877-874-4555 or email