Ball State University recently changed its slogan to – We Fly. But it isn’t everyday a distinguished pilot and astronaut visits campus.
Wendy Lawrence, retired astronaut and captain in the U.S. Navy, will speak at Emens Auditorium on February 19 at 7 p.m. as part of the Emens Professor Lecture Series.
“It is amazing to have such a great role model visit campus,” said Dayna Thompson, assistant director at the Charles W. Brown Planetarium. “Lawrence is an advocate of STEM curriculum and is an inspiration to many young women.”
STEM is an acronym for the career fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Campuses around the country, including Ball State, promote STEM programs and encourage students to major in these fields.
Lawrence will be introduced by Sarah Vise, a Ball State junior, who actively advocates STEM programs. She is majoring in both physics and astronomy.
“Wendy Lawrence has inspired me by being a vocal woman in STEM. I’m studying physics which isn’t saturated with women, so having an accomplished female role model is important to me,” Vise said. “Without people like her, I probably wouldn't be where I am now.”
Lawrence’s resume is extensive. According to her NASA biography, Lawrence was born July 2, 1959 in Jacksonville, Florida. She attended Fort Hunt High School in Alexandria, Virginia before enrolling in the U.S. Naval Academy. Lawrence graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in ocean engineering. She was a praised flight school graduate and was selected as a Naval Aviator in July 1982.
She logged 1,500 hours of flight time in six variations of helicopters and made 800 ship landings during her service in the Navy. She went on to achieve a Master of Science degree in ocean engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHIO) in 1988. In October of 1990, Lawrence was sent to the U.S. Naval Academy where she taught physics and coached the novice women’s crew.
In 1992, she was selected by NASA for astronaut training and reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. During her time at NASA, she flew on four space shuttle missions including, STS-67 Endeavor, STS-86 Atlantis, STS-91 Discovery and STS-114 Discovery. She made history as one of the two female helicopter pilots to first make a long deployment to the Indian Ocean as part of aircraft carrier battle group. Lawrence retired from NASA in June 2006. She had logged over 1,225 hours in space.
She received many special honors in her career including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the NASA Space Flight Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal. She was also the recipient of the National Navy League’s Captain Winifred Collins Award for inspirational leadership in 1986.
Vise hopes that Lawrence’s visit will inspire students and guests to learn more about science.
“It’s such an honor to introduce Wendy Lawrence to my university,” Vise said. “It will be a great experience for everyone involved. Especially for those who are fascinated with outer space, like me.”
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