Joan Higginbotham

Former NASA Astronaut; Lowe’s Director of Community Relations
Fee Range: $10,000–$15,000 [FEE NOTE]
Travels From: North Carolina
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Higginbotham served as a mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery during a 12-day STS-116 mission to the International Space Station in December 2006. She is the first known Saluki and third African-American woman to fly aboard a space shuttle and logged more than 308 hours on Discovery. Her primary mission was operating the space station’s remote manipulator system. During the mission, Higginbotham’s and other crewmembers’ work included rewiring the space station’s power system, retracting a solar panel and helping prepare the facility for future missions.

NASA recruited Higginbotham, a Chicago native and youngest of four children, during her senior year at SIU Carbondale. Higginbotham spent 20 years with NASA, starting at the Kennedy Space Center as a payload electrical engineer before moving to the lead position for the Orbiter Experiments on Space Shuttle Columbia. After working on other assignments and participating in 53 space shuttle launches during a nine-year tenure at Kennedy Space Center, Higginbotham was accepted into the astronaut candidate training program in 1996, reporting to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Higginbotham earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1987. While with NASA, Higginbotham earned two master’s degrees from the Florida Institute of Technology -- management science in 1992 and space science in 1996. After leaving NASA, Higginbotham served as vice president of business development and worldwide production with Marathon Oil. In 2011, she became director of community relations for Lowe’s Corp., based in North Carolina, where she develops and is involved with ongoing philanthropic strategies to support communities in the United States, Canada and Mexico through annual corporate contributions of more than $32 million. In December 2015, Higginbotham transitioned to director of supplier diversity, where she identifies and develops the capability of high potential small and diverse suppliers and matches them with the enterprise strategic sourcing and merchandising teams for integration into new sourcing frameworks. She is also involved with other community activities. Higginbotham lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband, James Mitchell. She is a member of the North Carolina Central University Board of Trustees, appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013.

She has received numerous national honors and awards. In 1997, she received the university’s Distinguished Service Award, and was the 2007 Homecoming parade grand marshal.

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