Walt Downing is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI®) in San Antonio, Texas. SwRI is an independent, not-for-profit organization conducting contract research in the physical sciences and developing innovative technologies for the betterment of humankind. Since its founding in 1947, SwRI has grown to be one of the world’s premier applied research and development organizations.
Walt joined SwRI in 1979 as an engineer initially working in the field of automated testing of aerospace systems. He expanded this technical program area and in 1981 developed an avionics and support systems section. Recognizing the unique needs of military customers who must manage assets for extended lifetimes, the section began to focus on solving reliability, maintainability, and supportability problems in existing aerospace systems through technology insertion. Walt grew his section into a department in 1988 and a division in 1994 when he was appointed Vice President of Aerospace Electronics and Training Systems. Walt moved into upper management in 1998 when he was appointed Executive Vice President and became a member of the SwRI Board of Directors. In 2016 Walt was recognized with the additional title of Chief Operating Officer.
Walt is an IEEE life senior member, an IEEE ABET engineering program evaluator, and a member of the IEEE Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honorary society. He serves on the Board of Governors of the IEEE Systems Council as vice president of technical operations. He also chairs the IEEE Central Texas Section Joint Chapter of the Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society and AESS.
Walt is active in a variety of civic organizations and nonprofit groups. He is on the industry advisory boards for the College of Engineering and the College of Business at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Mary’s University.
Walt is a graduate of Southern Methodist University (BSEE with high honors), the University of Texas at San Antonio (MBA), and has executive certificates in management and leadership from the University of Texas at Austin and MIT Sloan School of Management. He is a registered professional engineer in the states of Texas and Florida.