Matt Mulherin, who helped guide Newport News Shipbuilding through a corporate spinoff and delivery of a next-generation aircraft carrier, will retire as company president Aug. 1, the company announced Wednesday.
Taking the helm will be Jennifer Boykin, currently the vice president of engineering and design at Newport News. She will also serve as executive vice president of the shipyard's parent company, Huntington Ingalls Industries.
HII's board of directors elected her to the leadership posts effective July 1, according to a news release.
The changeover comes at a pivotal time for the Newport News shipyard.
The Navy and Trump administration are pushing for a dramatic expansion of the U.S. fleet, which President Trump punctuated with a trip to the shipyard in February. Even before that, the Newport News yard was girding for additional work due to the Columbia-class submarine program, which will result in a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines.
Newport News Shipbuilding is the sole builder of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the Navy and one of two yards that builds nuclear-powered submarines. It is Virginia's largest industrial employer, with some 20,000 workers.
Mulherin came to the shipyard 36 years ago after earning a civil engineering degree from Virginia Tech in 1981. Since then, he has left his fingerprints on virtually every corner of the shipyard
Starting as a nuclear test engineer, he rose to become the nuclear project manager for Los Angeles-class submarines. Additional promotions followed before he was named director and vice president for the next-generation Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier program.
Mulherin rode the Ford last month as it successfully completed initial sea trials, later proclaiming the ship "ran like a champ." The $12.9 billion ship, plagued by cost overruns and missed deadlines early in its life, is on track for delivery to the Navy this spring.
Mulherin "has been part of seven aircraft carrier deliveries and will soon add one more, Gerald R. Ford, (CVN 78) to the list," said Huntington Ingalls President and CEO Mike Petters in a news release. "Matt's leadership in the design, construction and testing of this first-in-class carrier, with myriad new technologies, has been critical to the success of this program."
While Mulherin oversaw a number of developments since HII spun away from Northrop Grumman in 2011, Petters said Mulherin "will be most remembered for his open and engaging style of leadership."
Boykin joined the shipyard in 1987 in the nuclear engineering division. A St. Louis native, she holds a bachelor's degree in marine engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a master's degree in engineering management from The George Washington University.
She rose steadily through the ranks, including serving as construction superintendent for the aircraft carrier program when the shipyard built the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Harry S. Truman.
She was named vice president, engineering and design, in 2012. In that position, she became responsible for all ship design, planning yard and topside construction and test engineering.
In the news release, Petters said Boykin was right for the job.
"Jennifer is an experienced and well-respected leader in our industry," Petters said. "Her style is collaborative, and she is adept at building strong teams that work well together to deliver exceptional results."
Lessig can be reached by phone at 757-247-7821.