Steve A. Polston, BSME 1970
Inducted in 2019
In his long career, Steve Polston has served as plant manager, senior vice president, chief operating officer, president and CEO for various nuclear energy and engineering companies. For nearly the last decade, however, he has put all of his leadership ability toward battling homelessness. Polston earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering in 1970 from the University of Kentucky.
Polston’s first major nuclear engineering-related supervisory responsibility came in 1981 when he supervised research and development engineers at Union Carbide Corporation’s Nuclear Division. In 1988, he moved to the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he held the position of assistant plant manager. In addition to his degree from the University of Kentucky, Polston received an MBA from Murray State University and an Executive MBA from Harvard University.
In 1992, Polston became CEO and plant manager for the Nuclear Fuel Enrichment Facilities in Lockheed Martin’s Nuclear Division in Paducah, Kentucky. Under Polston’s leadership, the Nuclear Division was named a Top 10 Best Company in America in 1998. While in that role, Polston began recruiting influential leaders who wanted to see UK launch a four-year engineering-only school in Paducah. The University of Kentucky Extended Campus at Paducah (UK Paducah) opened its doors in 1998, and 190 students are currently enrolled in the program. At the 20th anniversary celebration in 2018, Polston was recognized by UK as a co-founder of UK Paducah.
Polston led a corporate turnaround at Kaiser-Hill Corporation’s 3,000-person nuclear company. He led a similar turnaround at COGEMA Nuclear’s Fuel Reprocessing Division in Pierrelatte, France. In 2002, Polston became president of Kinetech Corporation, in Knoxville, Tennessee. He remained there until 2005 when he led a 250-person startup in Paducah at Swift & Staley. Polston then served as CEO of Uranium Disposition Services, LLC from 2008-2010 before retiring from corporate executive life.
In 2010, Polston founded New Life Day Center, a mission in Lexington, Kentucky, that serves over 150 homeless individuals each day. He remains active with New Life, serving as founder and board chair, and he is also chair for the LFUCG Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Board.
In addition to being a two-time winner of Lockheed Martin’s National Manager of the Year Award, Polston also received the 2012 Lexington Leadership in Compassion Award and the 2015 Kentucky Andrus Award for community service. He holds a U.S. patent for communication projection technology.
Polston lives in Lexington with his wife, Martha. They have three children and three grandchildren.