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JPL Director Delivers Keynote Address for Caltech Y

At its largest event in seven years, the Caltech Y welcomed JPL director and Caltech alumna Laurie Leshin to the Friends Dinner on February 28 at the Athenaeum. The quarterly event offers Caltech Y donors the opportunity to meet student members and learn from some of the top minds in science and engineering.

At the dinner, Leshin shared some of JPL’s upcoming missions, which seek to reveal new knowledge about our planet, our galaxy, and the universe. Within the next few years, JPL plans to send spacecraft to Mars to retrieve samples and bring them back to Earth. The lab also plans to conduct a survey of the sky that will study more than 300 million galaxies and launch a new satellite to observe extreme natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides.

“Dr. Leshin is so accomplished, yet genuine,” said attendee David Martinez, senior

relationship manager at TIAA. “I really felt her passion for space!”

As the first woman appointed to lead JPL, Leshin also discussed her career and acknowledged the mentors who supported her. Leshin’s ability to trailblaze in the lab and in the executive office serves as an example for Caltech students and complements the mission of the Caltech Y.

“For many of Caltech students, it is not a question of whether they will take on the mantle of leadership, but in what ways and what type of leader will they be,” said Athena Castro, Caltech Y executive director. “The Caltech Y at its core is about providing opportunities for students to develop and practice those leadership skills, to gain perspective that will allow them to be the very best leader they can be, to develop a moral and ethical compass, to influence change, and to make a positive difference in the world.”

Over the years, Albert Kyi, a Caltech senior and president of the Caltech Y student executive committee, has seen his fellow students take the lead to organize trips, book speakers, and find new ways to give back to their community.

“While our amazing staff play an important role in helping us get events done, it is the students who ultimately shape and drive the Caltech Y,” Kyi said. “As a result, the events and programs we put on help target needs that we the students see in our community.”

Several organizations generously supported the event through table sponsorships, including The Aerospace Corporation, Honeybee Robotics, the Keck Institute for Space Studies, Mandala Space Ventures, and OffWorld, Inc. Valet parking was underwritten by Enterprise Financial Holdings.

To see more photos from the Caltech Y Winter Friends Dinner with Dr. Laurie Leshin, visit our Flickr Album.


The Friends of the Caltech Y are our primary supporters. It is through the generous contributions of our Friends that the Y is able to continue its long-lasting mission of reaching out to the Caltech community with fresh ideas, student programming, and active community service. Friends dinners are unique evenings where the Caltech and Pasadena communities come together to engage with world-renowned scientific, humanitarian, and civic leaders. We invite you to contribute to the success of Caltech Y programs and become a Friend. Please visit our donation page at


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