May 4, 2015

Astronaut Herrington to present School’s commencement address

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Don Holzworth is not the only astronaut in the house — there’s another spaceman on the horizon.

John B. Herrington, PhD, retired commander in the U.S. Navy and brother of Gillings Global GatewayTM director Jim Herrington, PhD, is scheduled to talk to graduating public health students on Saturday, May 9.

Dr. John B. Herrington (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Dr. John B. Herrington (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw tribe, was the first Native American in space. After serving as a Navy aviator and test pilot, he was selected for NASA’s astronaut training program. On one mission, he logged more than 330 hours in space and engaged in three spacewalks, totaling nearly 20 hours outside the shuttle.

When he retired from the Navy and left NASA in 2005, he wondered whether he could find an “earthly” passion to inspire him as much as being an astronaut had.

“I decided to ride a bicycle from Cape Flattery, Wash., to Cape Canaveral, Fla., and speak to Native communities about the benefits of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education,” he said.

Native Americans are the least represented minority in math and science.

“While I miss the rigor and excitement of a space mission, I’ve found an opportunity to visit with and talk to students who are unsure about their opportunities,” he says. “Challenge is something we all must embrace — and I pass along my academic and professional experience in the hope that a student will become motivated to fulfill his or her own dreams.”

—David Pesci


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Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit sph.unc.edu/cph.