Distinguished Service Award

Debra Kimberling, F.SWE

San Diego County Engineering Council

For decades of influence at every level of SWE; for comprehensive outreach to girls and young women; and for illuminating the achievements of SWE pioneers for its future leaders.

Debra Kimberling, F.SWE, is well into her second career. For 35 years, the Society of Women Engineers has been an important companion at every stage of her engineering life, including retirement. Kimberling, a SWE life member, is one of the 2019 founding co-leads of the SWE Late Career and Retiree (LCR) affinity group, whose primary mission is to retain and engage the collective wisdom, energy, and drive of experienced SWE members who might have otherwise dispersed after SWE Regions were disbanded.

Today, Kimberling serves as the SWE LCR legends committee lead. Her team is working to bring visibility to SWE pioneers using information from the SWE archives. They are in the process of creating and updating the Wikipedia pages of early SWE Achievement Award recipients, going back to 1952.

Kimberling is a firm believer in the power of engineering society involvement. She has been a volunteer on the board of the nonprofit San Diego County Engineering Council since 2016 and currently serves as its president. This umbrella organization brings together the chairs, presidents, and delegates from each of the local participating professional and collegiate engineering society sections for regular meetings and discussions, and hosts the annual San Diego Engineers Week awards banquet.

An aerospace engineer with 35 years of experience in industry, academia, and government, Kimberling retired from Solar Turbines Inc., a subsidiary of Caterpillar, after 22 years. She is a founding member of the Solar Women Engineers employee resource group and helped create a legacy of active SWE participation for Solar and its employees. Her engineering career included positions at General Dynamics Space Systems Division; the School of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University, where she was an assistant professor; and as a civilian engineer for the Naval Ocean Systems Center (now NIWC Pacific), where she became one of the first women U.S. Navy-certified civilian divers.

Kimberling has served at all levels of the Society, including as president of SWE San Diego, where the section recognized her with its first-ever individual Diversity Champion Award in 2022. She also served as Region B director, strategic planning chair, and member of the SWE editorial board. She is also a member of the SWE Outreach and SWENext committees and is a SWE counselor for several SWENext clubs. Her outreach efforts include conducting parent and educator programs with an emphasis on social gender research awareness and unconscious bias training, and supporting the SWENext publication, Adult Advocate. Kimberling helps maintain and update the section’s historical archives and is working to create a community of past presidents to support section initiatives.

Kimberling, the first in her family to graduate from college, holds a B.S. in engineering science from Arizona State University and an M.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Washington. When not involved in the community, Kimberling enjoys hiking, gardening, theater, and occasional road trips to visit her extended family and friends.