Photo by Taylor Grey

It is not every day that you win a scholarship, let alone a $10,000 scholarship that is presented to you by a former astronaut. However, for three Tech students, this was the case. The three were honored during an award ceremony held Nov. 7th, in the Bill Moore Student Success Center, and were presented with pins as well as glowing remarks by former astronaut, Michael McCulley.

The ceremony began with opening remarks by Dr. Lakshmi Sankar, a professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering and member of the scholarship selection board. He spoke of McCulley’s distinguished career.

McCulley, whose career began as an enlisted Naval Submariner, has been a part of the aerospace community since he began flying for the Navy after his graduation from Purdue University.

McCulley presented the award on behalf of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, whose mission is to support the retention of talented individuals dedicated to innovation in STEM fields.

For McCulley, the foundation is a great way to pay forward all of the opportunities and good fortune that he was afforded.

“Every astronaut I’ve ever known feels incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do what so many want to do,” McCulley said. “I think there are 500 of us who have flown in space, so we are all so grateful for the
opportunity.

“Many of us have this opportunity to contribute back in such a profound way and that idea of giving back, that you repay, is why I do this.”

For the scholarship recipients, this generosity and faith in the next generation has not gone unnoticed.

The recipients, fourth year ME Emily Kamienski, fourth year BCHM Sophia Guldberg and third year BME Julia Wood all expressed their gratitude, emphasizing that their standalone achievements were only a small piece of the puzzle and that without help they would not have accomplished what they have.

“I’d like to thank the Astronaut Scholarship foundation for awarding me this scholarship, but there are also several others who have assisted me in this process,” said Kamienski. “This scholarship is opening up an amazing network of talented individuals and the opportunity to be guided by those on paths which I would like to follow is amazing.”

Woodall shared this sentiment of thankfulness and excitement.

“I’m very thankful for those who have guided my research and helped me find my passion, and I’m excited to apply what I have learned in my biomechanics research to the network of research that this scholarship connects me to,” said Woodall.

This ability to be humble, coupled with the ability to be a hard-working member of a team is key to success according to McCulley.

As he shared with those in attendance, he believes that his ability to be a team player, to seek opportunity and to never give up are what have enabled him to be successful in achieving his dreams.

“I’ve seen all kinds of people, and if there’s a commonality among people like me it is a healthy respect for fear,” said McCulley. “The ability to manage risk and integrate tasks to achieve your desired outcome is key. Furthermore, it is about ‘we’ not ‘I.’ You have to put yourself aside and be part of the team if you’re going to find success.”

By presenting this award and taking the time to speak to those who wish to innovate and spark change through their work, McCulley hopes to inspire people to pursue and achieve their dreams.

However, this recognition is just part of what the scholarship aims to achieve.

As the sum of its parts, the foundation hopes to use the award as a means to inspire and empower the next generation of thinkers and doers; and, thereby, carry on the legacy of those trailblazers like Michael McCulley.