Rodgers inspires others to reach for the stars

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The wife of the late Challenger shuttle commander shares her story wtih teachers at a STEM conference at this college.

By Maria Gardner

To overcome challenges in life, people need the ABCs — attitude, belief and courage, June Scobee Rodgers, wife of the late shuttle mission commander for whom Scobee Education Center is named, said Feb. 25 at the 23rd annual “Out in Space, Down to Earth” conference for science, technology, engineering and math educators.

“A stands for accept problems as a challenge,” she said. “B — Believe in yourself and a power greater than yourself.”

C is the “Courage to make a commitment, to step forward.”

In the planetarium with about 20 conference participants, she gave an overview of her life including her courtship to Dick Scobee, who led the crew on the Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51L.

On. Jan. 28, 1986, the seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, were killed when the orbiter came apart after the launch caused an explosion.

Rodgers said she and her husband were the first in their families to go to college. She was 18 and a new mother when they entered this college in the early 1960s.

They went to night school, and during the day she was a sales clerk and Dick Scobee, an airplane mechanic.

June Scobee Rodgers said she always wanted to be a teacher, and in 1983 she earned a doctorate in education from Texas A&M University.

She acknowledged that her path to achieving her goals has not been easy.

“I grew up in what people would consider a dysfunctional family,” she said.

She was raised in Victoria Courts in part of the federally funded public housing project segregated for whites. Her household was stable, she said.

Her mother was hospitalized for mental illness for large stretches of time and left her to take care of her siblings, she said.

“Sometimes we lived at other homes, sometimes homeless.”

Rodgers said she was happy to become a teacher and disprove naysayers who doubted her ability to be successful because of her family’s economic situation.

In speaking of the Challenger STS-51L, the flight to space that ended in tragedy in 1986, Scobee Rodgers described the dedication of teacher McAuliffe, a civilian passenger in the flight.

In competition with 11,000 teachers, McAuliffe a New Hampshire social studies high school teache, won a spot in the “teacher-in space” program.

The role of the program was to encourage and inspire students in space travel, she said.

Rodgers asked, “Who will continue Christa’s mission?”

The space science centers answer the call.  

“The family members resolved to create the world’s first interactive space science education center where teachers and their students could use technology and stimulator to explore space,” she said.

The Challenger Learning Center housed in Scobee Education Center is one of 43 science centers around the world.

She expressed hope the Challenger Learning Center makes an impact for the future.

“It’s not just scientists or engineers that we want to inspire,” Rodgers said. “These are the building blocks for all of our students to reach for the stars.”


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