Black History Month Graphic with headshot photo and text: "Employee Spotlight In Memoriam (1956-2023) Dr. Kevin C. Greenaugh Defense Programs"

This Black History Month, NNSA celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Kevin C. Greenaugh, who not only honored but created Black history himself through his achievements as a professor, a scientist, a leader, and a mentor.

Dr. Greenaugh passed away on December 17, 2023 after a 9-month battle with pancreatic cancer. At the time of his passing, he was a member of the Senior Executive Service, serving in the role of Chief Science and Technology Officer for NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs. This role focused on continued enterprise program modernization and bolstering the science, technology, and engineering development needed to ensure a more responsive and resilient NNSA enterprise. 

Dr. Greenaugh and Michelle Obama

Greenaugh also chaired the Science Council that supports studies and evaluations of various aspects of the Defense Programs’ mission. Over the span of his career in Defense Programs, he served as the Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Enterprise Capabilities; the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Strategic Partnership Programs, and the Deputy Assistant Deputy Administrator for Stockpile Management. His work covered an immense range of equities in nuclear security, from the U.S. nuclear stockpile and nonproliferation efforts to planetary defense and technology transfer. 

With over 35 years of experience working in the nuclear enterprise, he was the Executive Secretary of the Mission Executive Council comprised of Undersecretaries of four major agencies. He also served as the Senior Advisor for Policy to the Administrator of NNSA. Recently, he was quoted in the New York Times and Physics Today regarding his work for NNSA. 

Dr. Greenaugh’s passing leaves a great hole in the NNSA, but, fortunately, he inspired, motivated, and mentored so very many that his legacy lives on.

Jahleel Hudson
Acting Director, Technology and Partnerships Office
Dr. Kevin Greenaugh (younger)

Much earlier in Greenaugh’s long and illustrious career, he worked for eight years as a scientist and engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he published numerous technical reports on his research activities pertaining to uranium science, nuclear energy, and nuclear nonproliferation. 

He was born in the United Kingdom into a U.S. military family and spent a formative part of his youth in Berlin during the Cold War. He later moved with his family to Augusta, Georgia, where he was exposed to the challenges of segregation in the United States. He excelled in both academics and athletics and went on to complete his bachelor’s in chemistry from Mercer University, a master’s in Nuclear Engineering from the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque), a master’s in public policy from the University of New Mexico (Santa Fe) and post-master’s studies at the University of Arizona.

Greenaugh was the first Black individual to earn a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Maryland. He went on to receive an engineering certificate in product development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

He married his friend and college sweetheart, Cheryle, who also worked as a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory before the couple relocated to Maryland. Kevin and Cheryle were married for 46 years and have two children, Cianti and Giavanti. 

Dr. Greenaugh and family
Dr. Greenaugh and friend

In his free time, Greenaugh was an avid basketball player and played regularly on intramural teams throughout his life, including an exhibition game with the Dallas Cowboys during his time at Los Alamos. He also enjoyed golf and skiing, and first learned to ski on the bunny slopes at Los Alamos. Greenaugh remained committed to education throughout his life and taught courses in energy and fuel cycles in the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences at Howard University for over 25 years as an adjunct professor. He published and presented numerous technical papers and received national awards, including Distinguished Alumni from Mercer University, Black Engineer of the Year, a Centennial Award from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., where he was an active member for over 49 years, and the National Trail Blazer Award in Science. He was honored with municipal commendations from U.S. cities and was a member of many technical organizations, including the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. He was a former National President of the National Technical Association. 

Dr. Greenaugh’s life and career are a testament to resilience, excellence, and contributions to both scientific advancement and societal progress. Please take a moment to read the words of some of the many people he inspired at NNSA. Special thanks to the Defense Programs team for their contributions.

Dr. Greenaugh taught me many great things in and outside of the office, and I will cherish all the moments that we shared for the rest of my life. 

Todd Hughes
Program Manager, Nuclear Enterprise Assurance, NNSA


I first met Dr. Greenaugh in 2005 as my professor teaching Energy Engineering at Howard University where he taught as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering for over 25 years. He was one of those exceptional professors who motivates and inspires his students. He was kind enough to mentor me through my studies and into my professional career at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), where I worked alongside him for 17 years. 

Dr. Greenaugh’s passing leaves a great hole in the NNSA, but, fortunately, he inspired, motivated, and mentored so very many that his legacy lives on.

— Jahleel Hudson, Acting Director, Technology and Partnerships Office


My first encounter with Dr. Greenaugh was during a meeting at LLNL in 1998. There was escalating contention until Dr. Greenaugh calmly stepped in and restored order and decorum. I thought, ‘There’s a grownup in the room!’ During the subsequent 25 years our paths crossed many times, and we became friends as well as colleagues. On numerous occasions, I have admired his calm, professional, “grownup” presence, which remained in place even when he faced opposition to his views. I am grateful to Dr. Greenaugh for setting this example, for his mentoring of younger employees, and for the many other substantial contributions he made to NNSA missions over the course of his long career. I will greatly miss his presence, his contributions, and his friendship. 

— Dr. Marvin Adams, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs NNSA


Kevin was one of our most experienced senior executives in NNSA. He was a valued member of our executive team in Defense Programs, and a good friend. Those of us who were lucky to work with him benefited greatly from his deep technical knowledge, respect for others, and good humor. As we mourn his loss, we will never forget his willingness to help new executives and his passion for mentoring junior staff. 

— Mike Thompson, Former Executive Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, NNSA 


It is hard to put into words how much I learned from Kevin: both through his guidance and his actions. I am equal parts angered and saddened by how much he had to fight for access and advancement in his professional career, but I know that he has zero regrets. As I mourn his loss, I will take immense comfort in that, as well as in having the honor of knowing him for over 20 years. 

— Dr. Njema J. Frazier, Director, Strategic Partnerships & Engagement, NNSA 


As the first African American to receive his PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Maryland, Howard University Professor of Powerplant Technology, and a leader of many facets of NNSA’s Defense Programs, I am proud and honored to have been Dr. Kevin Greenaugh’s student and mentee. Dr. Greenaugh taught me many great things in and outside of the office, and I will cherish all the moments that we shared for the rest of my life. 

— Todd Hughes, Program Manager, Nuclear Enterprise Assurance, NNSA 


I always marveled at how Kevin was able to make important and impactful contributions on such a wide array of technical topics. But even more impressive was the fact that without fail he made me feel smart and special. I will miss his insight and his friendship.

— Dr. L. Diane Hurtado, Special Assistant to the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, NNSA