Kenneth O. (K.O.) Johnson passed away on Thursday July 28, 2005 at the age of 82 years. K.O. graduated from Purdue in 1950.
K.O. Johnsons career in aeronautics began before he came to Purdue. After graduating from high school in 1941, he learned to rivet aircraft assemblies as he worked to support the war effort. In 1943, he joined the Air Force as a second lieutenant and flew ground support air missions in Germany.
Following the war, Johnson enrolled in Purdue to study structural and aerodynamic design. In 1950, he began working for General Motors, where he analyzed and designed gas turbines and rocket engines, contributing significantly to the design and development of the Minuteman rocket engine.
Johnson worked for General Electric from 1966 until his retirement in 1986. While at GEs Large Gas Turbine Design Operation, in Cincinnati, he helped develop, introduce and patent the unducted fan engine, a breakthrough that led to reduced fuel consumption for commercial aircraft. He previously performed research and development for Belcan Engineering in Cincinnati.
He was an associate fellow for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, to which he had belonged for 52 years. At the 2003 Purdue Homecoming celebrations, in the presence of Purdue alumnus Neil A. Armstrong, KO received the Distinguished Pinnacle Award from Purdue president Martin C. Jischke. In 2000, he received the Outstanding Aerospace Engineers Award from Purdue. Johnson was inducted into the General Electric Aircraft Engineering Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded a NASA Certificate of Recognition.
K.O.s lead gift of $1 million to the Armstrong Hall of Engineering for the K.O. & Betty Johnson Aeronautics & Astronautics suite will leave a lasting legacy to K.O. and his career.