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Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation

Space isn’t the final frontier for Elliot Pulham; it is an everyday reality for this proud UH Mānoa alumnus and CEO of the Space Foundation.

When we met, Pulham had just wrapped up a busy week hosting the 32nd annual space symposium with more than 13,000 attendees and speakers including Amazon Founder and Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos and Bill Nye.

He shared that for years there have been people living in space. “The next step from the space station is going to be the moon base and the lunar village, and the next step is Mars. It is amazingly exciting to be in the middle of it.”

During his vibrant career, Pulham has met stars from the big and small screen including Sigourney Weaver and the late Leonard Nimoy, but he reserves special admiration for the heroes he meets in his line of work including astronauts, engineers and scientists.

For this CEO Hawai‘i is never too far from his heart. Hawaiian music plays throughout our interview in his office as a constant nod to Pulham’s home and heritage. Pulham transferred to UH Mānoa from UH Hilo as part of the journalism school. He recalls that “students encouraged each other and formed lasting bonds and camaraderie.” He enjoyed working for the student paper Ka Leo with San Francisco’s ABC7 news co-anchor Larry Beil. Pulham embraced every opportunity at UH Mānoa and completed internships at the Star-Advertiser and Pacific Business News.

After graduating, Pulham worked at Hawaiian Airlines where he met his mentor the late Lindsey Nahoakapuokalani Pollock. Pulham recalls that Pollack “taught me great life lessons about how to bring Hawaiian feelings, culture and aloha to work and business. Everyone should be so lucky as to have mentors like Lindsey in their life.”

Being Hawaiian is central to the life that Pulham leads. “It is such a powerful, strong, engaging loving culture; it is important to bring that wherever you go.”

He aims for every level of his organization to be healthy, happy and well-adjusted and for his team to be “as happy to come to work as to not come to work on their days off.”

Pulham is especially generous in his praise of his team and colleagues and emphasizes the impactful work they do with outreach, education, events and policy. Pulham’s management philosophy is paying off. The Space Foundation was recently named one of the The NonProfit Times' 50 Best Nonprofit Organizations to Work for in the United States, ranking number 17.

Outside of work Pulham enjoys exploring the depths of the ocean by scuba-diving. He thinks it is a natural part of being Hawaiian. “You want to go and see what is over the horizon. You want to explore.”

From the depths of space to the depths of the ocean the force is strong with Elliott Pulham who has achieved his lifelong dream of being a thought leader in the space industry.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni