One of the most accomplished graduates in LSU’s history will be honored with a professorship recognizing his achievements in the field of engineering. Max Faget, the legendary engineer credited with designing the Mercury space capsule and numerous other technological advances in space flight, is named in a professorship established by the family of Smiley and Bernice Romero Raborn to benefit LSU’s mechanical engineering program.

Officially titled the “Smiley and Bernice Romero Raborn Chair in Mechanical Engineering, as part of the Initiative to Recognize Max Faget,” or Raborn/Faget Chair for short, the professorship will be created through a $600,000 donation from the Raborn family and matched by $400,000 in funds from the state of Louisiana.

Not only will this professorship help LSU recruit high-caliber faculty for mechanical engineering, it also honors one of LSU’s most creative graduates for his significant contributions to society. The Raborn/Faget Chair will officially be presented to LSU at a special ceremony on Wednesday, March 22, at 9:30 a.m. in LSU’s Engineering Communication Studio, Room 2302, CEBA Building.

The Raborn’s $600,000 gift to LSU is the first step in a larger effort to recognize Faget at LSU. Ultimately, the goal of the initiative is to enhance the capability of LSU’s mechanical engineering program in both research and education. The effort will culminate in the naming of LSU’s mechanical engineering program for Faget, through the establishment of numerous endowments for areas such as professorships, graduate assistantships, undergraduate scholarships and ongoing operational support.

Faget, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 83, designed the original capsule spacecraft used in Project Mercury, the United States’ first manned space missions. He is also credited with contributing to the designs of every U.S. human spacecraft from Mercury to the Space Shuttle. Faget received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from LSU in 1943 and, after several tours of duty in the U.S. Navy’s submarine service in World War II, he joined the staff of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Later, he worked with the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division and eventually was named head of the Performance Aerodynamics Branch. While there, he conceived and proposed the development of the one-man spacecraft used in Project Mercury, for which he still holds the patent.

In the late 1950s, Faget was selected as one of the original 35 engineers who formed the “nucleus” of the Space Task Group, which was charged with developing a manned spacecraft. This group would later evolve into NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. It was Faget’s research that confirmed the feasibility of a manned mission to the moon, leading to President John F. Kennedy’s decision to pursue the voyage by the end of the 1960s.

When LSU Chancellor Sean O’Keefe was NASA’s Administrator, he said of Faget, “Without Max Faget’s innovative designs and thoughtful approach to problem solving, America’s space program would have had trouble getting off the ground.”

The donors who are creating the professorship honoring Faget are Francis “Buzz” and Marcia Raborn, who agreed to donate $600,000 to recognize Faget as well as Francis’ parents, Smiley Raborn Jr. and Bernice Romero Raborn, both of whom are 1939 LSU graduates in civil engineering and home economics, respectively.

“We want to thank the Raborn family for their exceptional generosity and graciousness in creating a professorship that recognizes both Dr. Faget and Smiley and Bernice Raborn,” said LSU Foundation President and CEO, Maj. Gen. (USMC, Ret.) Bill Bowdon, “Establishing this professorship is a major goal for our university community, and the Raborns are to be saluted for their vision in helping LSU reach its highest levels of achievement.”

“This is a critical first step that will greatly enhance the College of Engineering, through the mechanical engineering department and its mission of continuing excellence in engineering education and research,” said Zaki Bassiouni, dean of the College of Engineering.

For more information on Wednesday’s event or the Raborn/Faget Chair, contact Scott Madere, director of public relations for the LSU Foundation, at 225-578-3826 or