Dr. June Scobee Rodgers’ work with the Challenger Center.
By Jeff Tomecsko
Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair of the Challenger Center, is an inspiration to not only women but everyone for her perseverance in overcoming the toughest obstacles.
As a child she lived with her mother and three brothers in San Antonio subsidized housing.
“There was a tremendous struggle between school and living in poverty,” Rodgers said. “They wanted to put me back in grades because they thought I was not capable.”
She read a book when she was 9 years old that was given to her mother called “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.
“It was simple enough I was able to coin my own advice to myself,” Rodgers said. “And I called it my ABCs. A stood for attitude … B is for belief … C is for courage.”
Each letter contributed to how she would approach every situation in a positive manner.
It was this advice that got her through her struggles with poverty, education and great loss.
She met Dick Scobee at her church, Mayfield Park Baptist.
He was enlisted in the Air Force while she was finishing her senior year at Harlandale High School. The pair married in June 1959.
They both knew they wanted a college education; Scobee wanted to be a pilot and Rodgers a teacher. The biggest struggle was finances.
They both learned about this college and signed up for night classes, while they worked to pay tuition during the day.
They got to the point where they had no more money, so they discussed their options.
Rodgers decided to postpone her education and put the remainder of the money they earned to focus on Scobee so he could attend full time and finish his associate degree.
The plan included Scobee finishing his associate and earning a scholarship so he could complete his bachelor’s degree.
After that, Rodgers would return to school to complete her teaching degree.
The plan changed while Scobee was attending the University of Arizona when they decided to start a family.
Their daughter, Kathie Scobee Fulgham, was born January 1961 in San Antonio and Major General Richard Scobee was born April 1964 in Arizona.
It was not until Scobee became a pilot and was stationed in South Carolina that Rodgers returned to school, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in biology and English with a minor in education at Charleston Southern University.
After graduating, she became a teacher while Scobee was a test pilot.
During this time, she received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Chapman College in Orange, California.
Scobee was later became an astronaut and the family moved to Houston in 1978.
While in Houston, Rodgers attended Texas A&M in College Station earning her doctorate in specializations in reading, psychology, science and technology.
She graduated in May 1983, a year before her husband did his first space exploration.
It was after his expedition that Scobee was selected to join the crew for the Challenger mission.
Rodgers worked closely with her husband in getting to know the crew members of the Challenger expedition and their families.
On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger was on its 10th mission when 73 seconds after takeoff it began to break apart.
The shuttle ultimately exploded and killed all seven crew members.
The surviving family members channeled their grief by creating the Challenger Center that same year.
They turned to Rodgers as the founding chair of the Challenger Center because of her teaching background.
The mission of the Challenger Center is to continue educating future generations about space.
Rodgers eventually quit teaching to focus on the mission of the Challenger Center.
“There were times that I thought I would give up,” she said. “I can’t get the money to do this. It’s just so hard.”
She struggled to find funding for the program but she found help in close friends to keep the program going and growing.
While attending televised events for the program, she realized she couldn’t quit.
If she quit, she would be giving up on the Challenger crew’s goal to educate people about space exploration.
She feels the program’s creation has become a real living tribute for those lost in the explosion.
It maintains their mission of space travel and something for children to look up to.
Thirty years since the accident, a total of 40 Challenger centers have been constructed in three countries.
There are plans to construct 10 more centers.
The Challenger Center here has the newest program with the most advanced technology to date.
The programs are open to all, from pre-school to college students.
All centers engage with about 400,000 students a year across the globe.
The program strengthens participants’ knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields.
Overall, the Challenger centers have reached 4.4 million students.
For more information on June Scobee Rodgers, visit www.junescobeerodgers.com/ or www.facebook.com/ScobeeRodgers.
For more information on the Challenger Center, visit www.challenger.org/.