Drexel Alum Jon Rambeau to Deliver 2024 Engineering Commencement Address

Jon Rambeau
John Rambeau, BS, Mechanical Engineering, 1996

Jon Rambeau recalls a conversation he had with Y.T.Shah, PhD, former Dean of the College of Engineering, on a campus visit as a high schooler.

“He asked me why I wanted to be an engineer, and I told him that I liked understanding how things work,” Rambeau said. “Growing up, I was always taking things apart – from bikes to motorcycles to cars – to understand how they worked and how to fix them or make them better. [Dean Shah] told me ‘That's why we do what we do. We figure out how the world works, so that we can understand how to make things better – to make a difference.’”

The conversation sealed the deal for Rambeau, setting him on a path that would lead him through a successful education and a career that has included leadership roles at Lockheed Martin and, most recently, L3Harris Technologies. Rambeau will share his perspective with graduates, as the keynote speaker at the College of Engineering’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 13.

Throughout his academic and professional journey, Rambeau has chosen to take on challenging tasks. He remembers signing up for a dynamic class taught by Leon Bahar, PhD, then a professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics. Bahar had such a reputation for being a tough grader that Rambeau recalls being warned to drop the class and take the course with a different professor, if Bahar walked in on the first day.

“Sure enough, on the first day of class, he walked in and started writing his name on the board,” Rambeau said. “By the time he turned around, two thirds of the class had walked out.” But Rambeau stuck it out. “The B that I earned in Dr. Bahar's class was treasured more than many of the A's that I earned in other courses, because I had made it through with a very, very challenging professor. And by taking the harder path, I learned more."

After graduating in 1996, Rambeau joined Lockheed Martin, where he spent the next 26 years rising through the ranks to become Vice President and General Manager overseeing over 10,000 employees. Along the way, he earned a master's degree in technology management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and College of Engineering and Applied Science to gain the business acumen needed for executive roles.

In October 2022, Rambeau was tapped to serve as President of the Integrated Mission Systems business at L3Harris Technologies. There he leads strategy, execution and growth for an extensive portfolio spanning airborne reconnaisance systems, maritime mission systems, electro-optical sensing systems and space electronics.

Throughout his career, Rambeau has been driven by the same core motivation that drew him to engineering in the first place - solving complex problems and making a difference. Whether it was keeping Lockheed Martin's international partners aligned on major projects bringing teams together to overcome engineering challenges, Rambeau finds deep satisfaction in driving progress.

"No matter what I encounter in my daily work, I find I continue to draw upon the fundamental methods of engineering problem solving," he explains. "How do you solve the problem? You gather data, get a group of people together, methodically analyze the problem, and come up with solutions. And when you take on leadership responsibilities, you can take on more challenging tasks that can have an even greater impact. What I find most rewarding is going home at the end of most days feeling like things turned out just a little better because I was there."

But making a difference is about more than doing his job well – Rambeau is also committed to empowering future engineers. To advance this aspiration, he has established the Jon Rambeau Diversity in STEM Advocacy Scholarship. Established in 2023, the scholarship is awarded annually to underrepresented students with demonstrated need.

"As the father of two bright and talented daughters who were born in Guatemala, I take a very personal interest in advocating for diverse voices in our educational institutions and in STEM-related fields," Rambeau said. "I firmly believe that fostering inclusivity and providing opportunities for underrepresented students is not only the right thing to do but also essential for driving innovation and solving the complex challenges our world faces."

Rambeau captured many of the lessons learned over his career in his 2016 book Breaking Away from the Pack. "I've been energized by talking with aspiring early career professionals who are plotting their career trajectory," Rambeau says of his motivation for writing the book. "I'm passionate about helping people with their career plans and strategies for professional development."

He sees his commencement address as an extension of that mission. When he takes the stage, Rambeau aims to offer both practical advice and inspiration to graduates. While acknowledging their concerns about the job market and cost of living, he hopes to inspire them to embrace the opportunities ahead with confidence, community and a commitment to making an impact.

"Drexel has been such an important part of my personal journey," Rambeau reflects. "To be able to come back and address the next generation of engineers, especially at my alma mater, is really exciting and an honor. I aim to share advice that will do as much for them as Drexel did for me."