Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Helena Rodriguez
PORTALES — The first and perhaps the only Native American in the country to rocket into space will blast onto the Eastern New Mexico University campus to deliver motivational presentations on Monday, Oct. 4.
Once a college dropout and now a highly-respected NASA astronaut and Navy commander, John Bennett Herrington will share his inspirational story of success during two presentations, the first at 10 a.m. at the University Theater Center, and the second at 5:30 p.m. in the Becky Sharp Auditorium in the College of Business. A question and answer session will follow each presentation. The public is invited free of charge.
"John is really well known amongst Native American communities because of what he has accomplished. He is very well respected," said Utahna Livingston, student director of Eastern's Office of Native American Affairs. "I think he will also be an inspiration to other students when he comes to talk at Eastern, to the science majors and anyone else who has had to work hard to accomplish their dreams. He has been through a lot of hardships."
Herrington is currently doing some work in Russia. He was a member of the sixteenth Shuttle mission that visited the International Space Station from November to December of 2002. And it was during this famous voyage when Herrington, who was born in Wetumka, Okla., honored his Native American heritage by carrying six eagle feathers, a braid of sweet grass, two arrowheads and the Chickasaw nation's flag.
To date, Herrington has logged more than 3,800 flight hours in more than 30 different types of aircraft. He grew up in Colorado, Wyoming and Texas, graduating from Plano High School in Plano, Texas. After an unsuccessful first attempt at college, Herrington worked on a survey team in the mountains of Colorado, where he discovered he had an aptitude for math and real-life problem solving. He then returned to college at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, earning a degree in applied math in 1983.
Herrington then joined the Navy and was designated a naval aviator in 1985. In 1995, he earned a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He was selected by NASA in 1996 to join the Johnson Space Center where he has served as a member of the Astronaut Support Personnel Team responsible for Shuttle launch preparations and post-landing operations.
During his visit to Eastern, Herrington is expected to have lunch with ENMU President Dr. Steven Gamble, along with some math and science professors, and to have dinner with Native American students.
President Gamble said that Herrington is as high in stature as any speaker Eastern has had in the three years he has been here. "I heard of him (Herrington) when he was doing his space mission," Gamble said. "I saw the names of the crew that went and read things about him in his biography, but I never thought we would be fortunate enough to have him at Eastern. I encourage everybody that can come and hear his talk to come. He ought to be a wonderful speaker."
Seating will be a on a first-come, first-served basis and several elementary and secondary students from Portales Municipal Schools are also expected to attend. For more information contact Native American Affairs at 505.562.2470.