CONCORD, N.C. -- Alba Colón became the 10th recipient of the Kate Gleason Award on Tuesday after she was recognized for her work and leadership among women in the engineering community.
The Kate Gleason Award is bestowed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Foundation and pays tribute to women in engineering who have made an impact. Its purpose is to honor a woman engineer who has “has had a lifetime of achievement in the engineering profession.” Colón, who has been an engineer for more than 25 years, joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 after spending 23 years at General Motors. She now is the director of competition systems and Hendrick Motorsports.
“Our success is rooted in a culture that values performance both on and off the racetrack,” Colón said as she accepted the award. “It’s a culture where you are evaluated not on who you are or who you know, but on what you can do.”
Colón was born and raised in Puerto Rico, eventually going to college at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez for engineering. She wanted to become the first Puerto Rican in space and had dreams of being an astronaut but pivoted to mechanical engineering. She now leads her own team of engineers at Hendrick Motorsports and has been part of two NASCAR Cup Series championships over the past two years.
“I believe it’s my responsibility to help give others their chance by being engaged with my alma mater in Puerto Rico through Formula SAE and mentoring students and giving them the confidence that, with talent and hard work and support from organizations like ASME, the possibilities are truly limitless,” Colón said.
“I need them to know I’m there for them in the same way so many people have been there for me.”
The Kate Gleason Award pays homage to Kate Gleason (1865-1933), who was one of the first women to study engineering and was the first woman to be accepted into the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She was a pioneer for women working in math and science in a male-dominated field. She was also known for her philanthropy and her work with the Women’s Suffrage movement. Her work helped pave the way for women like Colón, who credited her loved ones’ support for her successful engineering career.
“Days like (Tuesday) would not have been possible without the love and encouragement from my family and the incredible support of my friends at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and my teammates at General Motors and now Hendrick Motorsports,” Colón said. “I could not accept this amazing honor without expressing my thanks to them.”
The accolades within the NASCAR community will continue with end-of the-year banquet where drivers and teams are honored. The banquet will air on Dec. 4 at on NBCSN starting at 7 p.m. ET.