REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Senior executive Steve Cornelius has been the model of consistency. That's shown by the various bowties he's worn daily for the past 15 years to his workplace of the past 28 years at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center.

But he's decided it's time for a change.

Cornelius, director of the Weapons Development and Integration Directorate, is leaving the government Saturday for a job in industry. He will become vice president of engineering at a Huntsville-based defense contractor.

"I've been offered an opportunity to work in the private sector that is of great interest to me," the Huntsville native said. "After 28 years I've gotten to do a lot of good work and work with a lot of good people. But it's an opportunity I'd like to take and try in the private sector.

"It's hard. This has been my life ever since I got out of college. I've worked in this building or on Redstone Arsenal 28 years. It's hard to say goodbye to the people. I'm happy about the new opportunity but I'll miss the work that I've gotten to do here supporting the Soldier directly and the people that I've worked with."

Cornelius, 50, graduated from Lee High School in 1981. He got a bachelor's in mechanical engineering in 1986 from the University of Alabama. After graduating in Tuscaloosa, "I took a whole day off and came to work for the Army," he recalled laughing. He got a master's in mechanical engineering in 1999 from The University of Alabama in Huntsville. And he got a master's in business administration in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He has spent most of the past three decades in AMRDEC's building 5400. He worked at the Pentagon in 1993 as AMRDEC's liaison for missile science and technology. He spent a year in Boston in 2001-02 when the Army sent him to school at MIT. And he spent a year in a developmental assignment as the deputy program executive officer for missiles and space from October 2007 until September 2008. He was selected for the Senior Executive Service in April 2009 and has served as director of weapons development and integration since December 2012.

"It's been a great career here," he said. "I've gotten to do things as a kid you'd only dream to do."

He and his wife, Amy, have a son, Hudson, 22, a senior majoring in management and management information systems at the University of Alabama; and a daughter, Molly Kathryn, 16, a Huntsville High School sophomore. His wife is the development director for the Huntsville Museum of Art.

Cornelius' hobbies include cycling, watercolor painting, cooking -- he's on a competition barbecue team -- working in his yard and reading.

He praised the people of his directorate as the best he's ever met. They can start an idea, do the design work, do the hardware, and fabricate and build missiles.

"It's amazing the amount of capability the people have here and the professionalism," he said.

But next week, he'll have a new place of employment in Huntsville with Kord Technologies, which does defense and aerospace work. "I intend to work for many more years -- no intention of retiring anytime soon," he said.

And the same goes for his penchant for wearing bowties. In 1999, he was in a men's store owned by a friend of his. He already had a bowtie for his tuxedo, but he'd always wanted more. So he bought two that day.

"I have probably 50 or 60 of them now," Cornelius said. "And I wear them just about every day."


AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.