Astronaut Fred Gregory challenges students

Astronaut Frederick D. Gregory spoke Tuesday in the Honors College in a ceremony honoring MSU’s 2019 Astronaut Scholars, Mary Catherine Beard and Jacob Easley.

Mississippi State University’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College held an out-of-this-world presentation Tuesday in Griffis Hall honoring two Astronaut Scholarship recipients and featuring astronaut Fred Gregory as the keynote speaker.

Gregory, born in Washington D.C., has piloted three space-shuttle missions (Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis) during his NASA career while also serving as NASA’s Deputy Administrator between 2002 and 2005.

“You get a sense of your age when you fly something brand-new and it is now in a museum,” Gregory said. 

Within his discourse, Gregory discussed his long-lived career in aerodynamics and offered insight into the life of engineering and school for many participating students. 

“What I’m going to do is tell you how I got here today, and I’m going to tell it to you in the sense that everything I have done up to this point has been like a journey or a vacation ... you think you know what you’re going to know what the outcome will be, but as you will find out, many things you thought were the truth are not the truth at all,” Gregory said. 

Gregory told the audience of his life struggles and the qualities within himself it took to acquire the positions that he has held over his lifetime. He spoke of both the confidence and dedication required to reach one’s goals.

“I was still fascinated with airplanes, and I saw this Air Force demonstration team known as the Thunderbirds. They were fast and they flew close together and they maneuvered, and they were loud. I loved it. All I did was walk up to one of these pilots and I asked, ‘How can I be a Thunderbird?’ and he thought for a moment and told me of a university in Pikes Peak, Colorado. So from there on, I set my sight on going to this school,” Gregory said.

Many students attended the event in hopes of obtaining advice that will help them reach the rank Gregory has achieved. 

Gray Anding, an aerospace engineering major and MSU freshman, explained the wide range of opportunities provided within this session for engineering majors and the privilege MSU students have when given the option to listen to such accomplished individuals.

“There are wonderful scholarship opportunities for people in the burgeoning field of aerospace engineering and seeing how someone with a career in aerospace graduated from flying planes and being involved in that, to doing very important missions on the cutting edge of science is a very big breakthrough moment,” Anding said. 

The Honors College event also took time to applaud two winners from MSU of the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship, Jacob Easley and Mary Catherine Beard. Gregory was invited to recognize these scholars and commend their accomplishments. 

Easley, a mechanical engineering major and senior at MSU, explained the importance and his appreciation behind being a scholar for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

“Going to D.C. was a great opportunity and especially meeting with our donors who are very supportive of us and want to help us succeed in our future. Being in the presence of these great national heroes is a great feeling, and I know it’s a limited experience which I’m excited to have to be able to help the world,” Easley said.

He also spoke of the many relationships and bonds he made with other recipients of the Astronaut Scholarship and why it was important to come into contact with them.

“The Astronaut Scholarship is great with connecting us to similar students which want to change the world and have ideas. Being able to meet with them and hear these ideas to collaborate while also creating life-long friendships that we all love is rewarding,” Easley said.

Mary Catherine Beard, a biomedical engineering major and senior at MSU, also described her appreciation for both the Honors College and the ASF. 

“I would like to thank the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and everyone involved who helped fund me and the next generation of recipients or scientists and allow us to become a part in this really special program,” Beard said.

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