The late Air Force Col. Rick Husband, commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia and an alumnus of California State University, Fresno, will be memorialized on campus Saturday, April 2, with a plaque that will be unveiled by his widow, Evelyn Husband, and their two children.
Also participating in the dedication at 11 a.m. at the Engineering East Building will be Col. Steve Lindsey, a NASA astronaut and close friend of Col Husband.
NASA has selected Col. Lindsey to command the crew of STS-121 on an assembly flight to the International Space Station — the first scheduled flight of the revamped space shuttle.
The plaque dedication ceremony Saturday will be at the south entrance of the Engineering East Building located at Jackson Drive off Barstow Ave. on the north end of the Fresno State campus.
Joining the Husband family and Col. Lindsey in the dedication will be Dr. Andrew Hoff, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Faculty, staff and students and representatives of the Engineering Alumni Chapter will participate.
Fresno State’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 035 and the 144th Air National Guard Fighter Squadron also will honor Col. Husband, who earned his master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Fresno State in 1990. He was awarded the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Distinguished Alumnus “Top Dog” Award in 2002.
Col. Husband was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1994 and logged nearly 25 days in space on two shuttles. He died Feb. 1, 2003, when Space Shuttle Columbia broke up and her crew perished during entry 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing.
On that flight (STS-107), Col. Husband took a Fresno State sweatshirt to wear in space as a tribute to his alma mater and had planned to bring it to Fresno later in the spring of 2003 to present the university a framed commemorative photo of him wearing it.
Col. Lindsey was a close personal friend of Rick Husband and is fulfilling a pact the pair made to assist each other’s family in the event something happened to either of them, said Dr. Peter Smits, Fresno State vice president of Advancement.
Smits attended the launch of the ill-fated Columbia mission in Florida at the invitation of Col. Husband when he made arrangements for the sweatshirt through the University Communications office in December 2002.
The memorial plaque was designed by local artist, Bill Norris, and funded by the College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter. The chapter also established a scholarship fund in honor of Col. Husband that will benefit students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Norris, 71, is a retired school teacher — serving Roosevelt High School for many years — who took up art a few years ago when he enrolled in Fresno State’s 60-plus program for senior citizens. He started the Husband plaque, his first commissioned piece, while taking these classes.
Norris is currently working on a bronze for the late Fresno State track coach, Dutch Warmerdam. He and wife, Marjory, reside in Fresno.
The April 2 dedication highlights a two-day itinerary for the Husband family, including children Matthew and Laura, and Col. Lindsey that ends with Mrs. Husband speaking at Northwest Church in Fresno on Sunday morning.
Accompanied by Smits and other Fresno State officials, the entourage will begin the day Saturday by touring the AFROTC detachment with Major Gary Foster and Cadet Jacob Botello. They will then tour of the campus and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
At the 11 a.m. dedication ceremony, Col. Lindsey will deliver greetings from NASA followed by comments from Donald Fantz, Engineering Alumni Chapter president, and artist Norris who will discuss what inspired him in designing the piece.
Mrs. Husband will close the dedication with comments on the presentation and the plaque.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, they will attend a show at the Downing Planetarium at Fresno State before Col. Lindsey and Mrs. Husband speak again at a special dinner with university officials, the Air Force ROTC officers and cadets and members of the 144th Air National Guard Fighter Squadron.
The involvement of the Fresno State AFROTC provides a fitting backdrop for the tribute to Col. Husband and the visit by Col. Lindsey, said Col. Joseph Brozena, detachment commander.
Noting that Col. Husband was a distinguished graduate from the AFROTC program at Texas Tech, Col. Brozena said Fresno State’s cadets look forward to honoring Col. Husband and his family on Saturday evening with a dinner.
“He was a family man, leader, aviator, and astronaut, someone who the cadets from Fresno State look up to and would like their Air Force career to follow,” Col. Brozena said, adding that the cadets have a special place of honor in their cadet lounge in the North Gym where they memorialize Col. Husband and the Columbia Space Crew.
Husband received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University in 1980 before earning his master’s through Fresno State’s program at Edwards Air Force Base in 1990.
He was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1994 and logged 24 days, 51 hours and 33 minutes in space as the pilot of STS-96 Discovery and STS-107 Columbia.
When the Fresno State Alumni Association awarded him the 2002 Top Dog alumnus award, he was unable to come to Fresno to personally accept it because he was training for the Columbia mission. But Col. Husband sent a video, which can be viewed at www.FresnoStateNews.com.
In the video, he expressed his desire to take a memento from the university into space with him as a gesture of acknowledgement to and appreciation of Fresno State for the opportunity to earn a masters degree. He told University Communicators the master’s degree helped him in his quest to become eligible for the NASA astronaut program.
Then on Feb. 1, 2003, the university community mourned with the world upon news that the Columbia shuttle was lost during reentry, killing the entire 7-member crew.
A few days later, the campus and community paid tribute to Col. Husband with a special campuswide memorial on Feb. 4 in the Peace Garden. The California Air National Guard 144th Fighter Wing participated with a flyby for its fallen comrade.
The following year, Mrs. Husband visited the campus –for the first time since they attended his Commencement ceremony in Bulldog Stadium 12 years earlier — to receive her late husband’s Top Dog Award at the 2003 dinner in the Save Mart Center.
Hoff said the distinguished alumnus is an inspiration for all, but especially the college as it charts its future.
“As the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s 2002 Outstanding Alumnus, Col. Rick Husband’s life and legacy serves as an inspiration to our future engineers to reach for their dreams and to purse personal excellence,” Hoff said. “With the College’s new focus and revitalization, this remarkable graduate also inspires the college to strive for growth and excellence. We are proud to honor Col. Husband, a brave American and a loyal Top Dog.”
Now Mrs. Husband returns to Fresno and brings her husband’s colleague, Col. Lindsey, who himself is a veteran of three space flights with 896 hours logged in space.
Col. Lindsey is currently assigned to command the crew of STS-121, an assembly flight to the International Space Station. He flew as a pilot on STS-87 in 1997 and STS-95 in 1998, and was mission commander on STS-104 in 2001. That flight, designated assembly mission 7A, was the 10th mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
During the 13-day flight, Col. Lindsey and his crew conducted joint operations with the Expedition-2 crew and performed three spacewalks to install the ISS joint airlock Quest and to outfit it with four high-pressure gas tanks. In addition to installing and activating the joint airlock, the crew also performed the first spacewalk from Quest. The mission was accomplished in 200 Earth orbits, traveling 5.3 million miles in 306 hours and 35 minutes.
For more information about the dedication, contact Dana Lucka at 559-278-5590.