Former NASA astronaut joins Cianbro’s board

Peter Vigue, right, chairman and CEO of Cianbro, shakes hands with James Van Hoften, a former NASA astronaut and Cianbro's newest board member.
Courtesy of Cianbro
Peter Vigue, right, chairman and CEO of Cianbro, shakes hands with James Van Hoften, a former NASA astronaut and Cianbro's newest board member.
Posted Sept. 24, 2013, at 4:15 p.m.
James Van Hoften, pictured here in the 1980s during his time as a NASA astronaut, has joined Cianbro's board of directors.
Courtesy of NASA
James Van Hoften, pictured here in the 1980s during his time as a NASA astronaut, has joined Cianbro's board of directors.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Cianbro on Tuesday announced that a former Navy combat pilot, NASA astronaut and former executive at Bechtel, a major defense contractor, had joined its board of directors.

James Van Hoften has had an impressive career, one that Peter Vigue, Cianbro’s chairman and CEO, said the company will benefit from as it undertakes some initiatives that are new to the company.

“I believe the advice that we might get, and the awareness and the knowledge through the experiences he’s had, can make us a better company,” Vigue said in a statement.

Van Hoften, who prefers to be called by his NASA nickname “Ox,” earned by virtue of his large frame, flew 60 combat missions as a Navy F-4 Phantom carrier pilot during the Vietnam War. After the war, he taught civil engineering at the University of Houston until being selected by NASA for the Space Shuttle program in 1978.

He served as a mission specialist on Challenger in 1984 and on Discovery in 1985. During the latter mission, Van Hoften became the first human to launch a satellite by hand, having spun and pushed a repaired communications satellite away from the orbiting space shuttle during a space walk.

Following his time at NASA, Van Hoften joined the Bechtel Corp., where he helped to establish the new defense and space business as a key component of the company.

“I was brought in to help diversify the company and develop new business lines,” Van Hoften said of his time at Bechtel. “And we managed to do that. We managed to bring the company back. It’s now 55,000 people and does $35 billion a year worth of revenue. It wasn’t all me, of course. But it was valuable experience just to be a part of a group that grew out of that. And it’s helpful just to have another set of eyes looking at Cianbro. It’s valuable to be able to assess some of the opportunities that are out there and discuss it at a board level and decide whether certain opportunities are something we might want to do or not.”

In a statement, Van Hoften said he was excited to join Cianbro’s board.

“I think Cianbro looks like a company that’s got a very healthy and robust history. And I look forward to being able to contribute what I can from the background that I have.”

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