The legacy of Col. Rick Husband, commander of space shuttle Columbia that was lost with all her crew upon return to Earth four years ago, will be remembered by the creation of an honors program for aspiring engineers at California State University, Fresno.
A $2 million endowment from The Boeing Company will create the Husband-Boeing Honors Scholars Program in Engineering at Fresno State.
The program honors a Fresno State alumnus, Air Force Col. Rick Husband, who was the mission commander of the space shuttle. STS-107 was the second trip to space for Col. Husband, who previously had piloted the first shuttle mission to dock with the International Space Station.
The Husband-Boeing Honors Scholars Program in Engineering will provide 20 talented, qualified and motivated students from Central California full tuition for four years to pursue and complete their education in engineering or technology.
“The Husband-Boeing Honors Scholars Program will help ensure future generations of engineers with the same vision and enthusiasm for innovation exemplified by Fresno State alums Rick Husband and Sam Iacobellis,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
“Boeing is especially proud to support a program that will inspire and attract new engineers from the culturally diverse communities in the Central Valley of California.”
Aviation industry leader Iacobellis, a Fresno State distinguished engineering alumnus, was instrumental in developing the relationship between Boeing and Fresno State.
Fresno State President John D. Welty said, “We are delighted that Boeing has decided to invest in the lives of Central California residents and at the same time honor the legacy of Rick Husband.”
Col. Husband earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Fresno State in 1990 in a university program at Edwards Air Force Base. “Rick had a special place in his heart for Fresno State,” said Evelyn Husband, his widow. “He credited his Fresno State education for the fulfillment of his dream to become an astronaut. He even packed a red Bulldog sweatshirt onboard Columbia to wear on his trip into space” said Mrs. Husband.
Welty said Col. Husband and his crew members served as an inspiration “to all students who would dare to dream.”
“Providing Fresno State’s College of Engineering with its first honors scholars will allow countless students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college, the opportunity to achieve their dream of a college degree.”
“And it is particularly fitting that we announce this generous donation during National Engineers Week, when we recognize the work of engineers and encourage young people to consider engineering as a career,” said Welty.
Dr. Andrew Hoff, interim dean of the College of Engineering, said, “The Husband- Boeing Honors Scholars in Engineering is an integral part of the college’s vision for the future as it seeks to establish endowed chairs and professorships and develop cutting-edge laboratories.”
Students for the honors scholars program will be recruited from local elementary and secondary programs using the linkages with the university’s existing Smittcamp Honors College, the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Schools Program and the Engineering Pathways Program in Fresno State’s College of Engineering. Applications for the new program will be accepted in spring 2008.
Hoff said the need for trained engineers is critical. “While the number of jobs requiring technical training is growing at five times the rate of other occupations, the number of entrants into those fields is static or declining across the United States,” he said.
According to the National Science Foundation’s “Science and Technology Indicators 2006,” undergraduate enrollment in engineering dropped. In the past 10 years, the number of U.S. high school seniors planning on careers in engineering has dropped more than 35 percent. As a result, the number of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded nationwide in 2002 dropped to 60,639, a 22 percent decline since 1985.
Hoff noted that as a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution, Fresno State reaches out to students who are traditionally underrepresented at the university and in the engineering profession. The university is in the heart of Central California, one of the most culturally diverse regions of the U.S.
Iacobellis, who connected Boeing and Fresno State for development of the Husband-Boeing Honors Scholars Program, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Fresno State in 1952. He rose to the post of Deputy Chair of Rockwell International Corporation, and is known fondly in the aerospace industry as the “Father of the B1-B bomber.” He also played a major management role in the development and operation of the space shuttle and its main rocket engines.
He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science Degree by Fresno State in 2006 and serves on the university’s National Board of Visitors.
Boeing is the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined, with capabilities in rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, satellites, launch vehicles and advanced information and communication systems.
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