Women Who Shaped Texas Tech – 2017

For the last several years, our University Archives Women’s History Month exhibit entitled “The Women Who Shaped Texas Tech” has graced our hallways. It celebrates women whose influence on Texas Tech University is still felt today. This year’s honorees represent some of the best and brightest contributors to Tech’s excellence.

Head - Ginger Kerrick-B.W.

Ginger Kerrick was born on November 28, 1969, in El Paso, Texas, and spent her youth dreaming of a future career in space and athletics. A knee injury early in her college years led her to focus full-time on science education, and so she transferred to Texas Tech University with the help of scholarships and student job opportunities procured by Dr. Walter Borst of the Physics Department. She earned her B.S. in 1991 and her M.S. in 1993, both in the field of physics. An internship with the Johnson Space Center got her foot in NASA’s door, and her dogged determination to gain full-time employment with the agency proved successful despite a hiring freeze and disqualification from the astronaut interview process due to a health issue. Employed for over two decades with NASA, Ginger held multiple positions, most notably as the first non-astronaut capsule communicator in 2001 and as a flight director in 2005. She is the first Hispanic female to hold that position.

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Jeannine McHaney is credited with establishing and growing Texas Tech’s women’s athletic program. She began her career at the university in 1965 as an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. In 1966 she was appointed the Women’s Intramural Director and given a measly annual budget of $500 to run the program. It was only able to exist due in part to coaches contributing their time for free. In addition, Jeannine served as the volleyball and gymnastics coach. With the enactment of Title IX in 1975, Jeannine was appointed as the first Women’s Athletic Director and, during her 10-year term in that role, she grappled with issues such as inadequate funding and poor facilities for women’s athletic teams. Over the course of her 28 years with TTU, Jeannine was influential in women’s athletics in both the Southwest Athletic Conference and the NCAA. Among her many accolades was being named the 1993 Administrator of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

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Born in 1949 in San Angelo, Texas, Tina Fuentes knew from a young age that art was her calling. She accordingly channeled her passion, strength, and understanding of the fundamentals of composition, perspective, and color into becoming a nationally recognized multi-media artist. She earned a B.F.A. in 1973 and an M.F.A. in 1975 from North Texas State University. Tina specializes in the areas of painting, drawing, and printmaking. Since 1982 her work has been featured in numerous one-woman and multi-artist exhibitions, as well as a documentary film, El Arte de Tina Fuentes that was broadcast on PBS. She has received several artist-in-residence awards, faculty awards, and research grants, with the most recent being a sizable National Science Foundation collaborative grant with TTU Atmospheric Science Professor Eric Bruning. Tina also shares her love of art with students through a long teaching career that began in 1972 in the Abilene I.S.D. and continues into 2017 at Texas Tech, where she is a tenured professor in the School of Art.

The Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster and our Rick Husband Papers

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On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over east Texas. All seven astronauts of the STS-107 mission lost their lives in that morning’s tragedy, but there was one, Commander Rick Douglas Husband, whose legacy has since directly affected us at the Southwest Collection. Rick was a graduate of Texas Tech University, a fact of which he was (in our opinion!) justifiably proud. That’s why, through a long and sometimes emotional process of working with his widow, Evelyn Husband Thompson, we were able to acquire his Papers and make them available to researchers worldwide. Through that process, we learned about the Columbia tragedy, of course, but more importantly we learned a lot about the man himself, and the dedication to rigorous study and training that would ultimately allow him to fulfill his life’s dream of space flight.

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Husband had almost always wanted to be an astronaut. In 1977, during his tenure as an undergraduate at Texas Tech (where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering,) he wrote the letter above. “I would like to request any and all information you may have concerning astronaut pilot or mission specialist, and specific requirements which would be desirable to apply for those positions.” This was no idle request. NASA provided a long list, and Rick checked off each item until he made it to space for the first time 22 years later on the space shuttle Discovery.

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Only the best of the best get to pilot and command space shuttles for NASA, and so Rick set out to become just that. After years of serving as a Test Pilot for the United States Air Force, he soon found himself taking advantage of other opportunities. For example, he relocated temporarily to England where he flew as an exchange test pilot in the RAF’s Aircraft and Armament Evaluation Establishment at Boscombe Down. Soon, between military and test pilot efforts, he had logged more than 3800 hours of flight time and was widely acknowledged to be something special in the cockpit.

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At long last, he was offered his life’s dream in December 1994 when NASA requested that he join them as an astronaut candidate. He reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 to begin a year of training and evaluation and, upon completion of training, Husband was named the Astronaut Office representative for Advanced Projects at the Center. For four years he put his engineering skills to work on projects such as Space Shuttle Upgrades, the Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), and studies to return to the Moon and travel to Mars. He eventually served as Chief of Safety for the Astronaut Office, all the while studying, memorizing, and rehearsing the information found in the manual above. Imagine 40 archival boxes full of similar material, the mastery of which is the baseline requisite for piloting a shuttle. We can imagine that easily, because we boxed and inventoried all of it. We are also all in agreement that none of us could have made the cut. Rick did, however, and in 1999 he piloted space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-96 to the International Space Station (ISS). He spent an ecstatic 235 hours in space on that journey, acquiring the skills that would allow him to command, not just pilot, his next space shuttle mission on the Columbia.

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Training wasn’t all “how to fly a machine that takes off by basically detonating a bomb beneath you and comes back home at 17,000 miles per hour,” no matter how important that aspect is. Reams of paper describing programs for which he trained, all of which are covered with the distinctive handwriting seen on the image above, fill the archive that document his life. Details of conducting zero gravity science and engineering experiments; the maintenance of life support systems; even the extraordinarily rigid schedules and time management required to ensure effective day-to-day routines of sleeping, eating, and working–Rick had to master all of this, able to perform them in an environment that many of those who authored the materials had never experienced. And, in order to get some work done on the ISS, he also had to learn Russian in order to communicate with NASA’s international partners, as you can see in the excerpts from the training manual below.

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We could go on and on about his many accomplishments as a pilot and astronaut, but there’s not enough room here to do it justice. And we haven’t even covered much of the everyday human qualities that also made him unique. He was a devout Christian, and spoke at churches or religious gatherings whenever he was asked. Students from kindergarten to undergraduate and graduate students at universities gathered to hear him speak, both in individual courses and at large events. Rick was dedicated to leveraging his good fortune in becoming an astronaut to educating and, perhaps, inspiring others to pursue their own passions.

The Rick Husband Papers are an amazing collection, documenting the career from college to NASA of an astronaut whose materials are worthy of study regardless of the tragedy in 2003 that brought Columbia’s crew international attention. Interested researchers and anyone else wanting to use this unique collection are encouraged to contact our top-notch Reference Staff who will help you sort through them.