Carolyn Leach Huntoon
|Residence||Barrington, Rhode Island|
|Alma mater||Northwestern State University|
Baylor College of Medicine
|Occupation||Scientist: National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|Harrison Hibbert Huntoon|
|Relatives||Brother Buddy Leach|
Carolyn Leach Huntoon (born August 25, 1940) is the first American woman to have served as the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, a position which she held from 1994 to 1996. She began her career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1970.
Prior to her appointment as director of the Space Center, Huntoon had, among other tasks, directed the study of how the human body adapts to space flight. At the time of her appointment to the Space Center, spokesman Brian Welsh said, "Women are coming into roles at NASA that in the Apollo years would have been unheard of ... We are moving to the point where it no longer will be news that women are in these kinds of positions."
On leaving the Space Center in 1996, Huntoon served U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as the assistant secretary for environmental management of the United States Department of Energy, a position which required confirmation by the United States Senate. As assistant secretary, Huntoon oversaw the cleanup of 113 nuclear sites in 30 states and one territory. She managed seven DOE field offices, including the Savannah River site.
After retiring from government service, Huntoon became an independent consultant in the fields of energy and aerospace. She advises both government and the private sector on the proper disposal of radioactive nuclear wastes as well as the physiological responses to space travel.
Huntoon is a fellow in the American Astronautical Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Aerospace Medical Association. She is a recipient of the Russian Yuri Gagarin Medal, which recognizes her work in space biology and medicine. She holds the S. P. Koralov Medal from the Russian Cosmonautics Federation for her work in shaping the Shuttle-Mir program.
Huntoon was born in Leesville in Vernon Parish in west Louisiana to Claude, Sr., and Lucille Leach. Her siblings included an older brother, Buddy Leach, who served a term in the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 4th congressional district from 1979 to 1981, with service prior and since that time in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Prior to 2010, Leach had been his state's Democrat state chairman.
Huntoon graduated in 1958 from Leesville High School and attended nearby Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, from which she received her undergraduate degree in 1962. She procured her Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In 2003, she was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield. By virtue of her U.S. government service, she met the "political" requirements of the honor.