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Jeff Sugano: A Via Volunteer with a Hypersonic Past

Jeff Sugano has two claims to fame as a Via volunteer: he is the first volunteer with our Vital Volunteer program and also the one with the longest track record. He will be celebrating his seventh year this November. “I was the guinea pig,” Jeff jokes. “Other volunteers came along about six months after me.”

Jeff also delivers the most Farmers Market produce bags – around 40 per shift – thanks in part to his beefy SUV, says Volunteer Coordinator Michael Woodard. 

Via’s volunteer program was created to fill in paratransit gaps in 2015. When Covid hit in March 2020, riders needed to social distance and the program shut down for a period. 

That’s when Via discovered a new avenue of service that remains to this day. Volunteers began transporting food to child care centers and families with low incomes through a partnership with Boulder County, the Boulder County Farmers Market, and other nonprofits. Jeff carries on this role today, while some other volunteers have resumed people transportation. He has less contact with people while doing food deliveries, but volunteering and helping others are rewarding features of his retired life. 

Rocket Man

Jeff had a fascinating and illustrious career as an aerospace engineer who helped design the U.S. space shuttle Columbia. When he was hired by NASA in 1976 at the Johnson Space Center, the U.S. was still five years away from launching a new type of shuttle–one that would be vastly superior to previous spacecraft and last well beyond a single flight. Jeff’s engineering prowess was focused on safe shuttle launches and landings. He even hopped on board the shuttle training aircraft for test runs and astronaut training.

After the thrill of the new-and-improved space shuttle launch in 1981, Jeff shifted gears slightly. He designed flight simulation software for astronauts in training.  

His aerospace career is only one chapter in Jeff’s very full life, which includes multiple degrees, Air Force Officer Training School, flight test engineering, marriage, children, and extensive volunteering. 

Does he still care about space travel? “I still listen to audio coverage of all the launches,” Jeff says. “It’s in my blood to follow the space program.”

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