Weekly Feature



2018-10-11 / Front Page

Cleve Hill alumnus speaks to students about NASA career

by EMILY LOSITO
Reporter


The center director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Chris Scolese, graduated from Cleveland Hill High School in 1974. He returned last week to speak to students about his time at the school, his career and his achievements. 
Photo by Chuck Skipper The center director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Chris Scolese, graduated from Cleveland Hill High School in 1974. He returned last week to speak to students about his time at the school, his career and his achievements. Photo by Chuck Skipper During his high school career, Chris Scolese was a member of the Rocket Club. He always knew he wanted to do something with space and engineering. He returned to his alma mater, Cleveland Hill, to revisit what prepared him for his journey with outer space and space flight missions.

Scolese graduated from Cleveland Hill in 1974. He has been working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since 1987.

“When I was a kid, all the rockets I saw in coloring books had fins, and one day I saw these rockets and they didn’t have fins, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have them,” Scolese said during his presentation.

“This really started to peak my interest. … I discovered that the reason you can get rid of fins is because of computers. You can guess that I became an electric engineer and a computer scientist.”

Scolese, who has been the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center director since 2012, credited teachers during his early education to his choice in career paths.

“Cleveland Hill did a lot for me. I had two teachers in high school who really pushed me,” he said of a math teacher and science teacher. “[One] got me going in the right direction with math. [The other] ... he pushed me on rockets and rocketry and doing something about it.”

The teachers pushed Scolese, and he competed in the Western New York Science Fair and won. He said he then went to the State Science Fair and received high honors.

“At this time, I joined the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which is a professional society,” Scolese said. “They allow high school students to come in if they display an interest in aerospace and science, and I obviously did.”

Scolese has worn a few hats at NASA and has many accomplishments under his belt, including leading or supervising the development of more than 150 missions in space.

He previously served as an associate administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. He was also acting administrator for seven months in 2009.

“Transitioning the agency when I was acting administrator was only seven months, but it was a critical seven months keeping the organization focused,” Scolese said. “We also flew four shuttle flights. I think I’m the only acting administrator that actually flew crew. And that was good for the organization because the NASA employees felt that they had not only my confidence but that the administration had confidence in them.”

Another accomplishment Scolese noted was the spacecraft Terra. He said Terra changed the way people observed the Earth.

“I’m very proud of it. It was supposed to last five years, and coming this December, it’ll be 19 years old, well beyond its designed life,” he said during the presentation. “It really opened up our world of observation. It brought a whole bunch of new instruments. It allows us to understand the world in a different way, so we could better predict the weather, severe storms, agriculture.”

During his NASA career, Scolese said he met his mentor John Glenn — a military pilot in WWII and the Korean War, the first American to orbit the earth, a senator and good role model, according to Scolese.

“I just hope I can inspire people to go off and do great things, as well,” he said. “It’s kind of daunting. You never think you’re going to be there.”

Superintendent Jon MacSwan presented a gift to Scolese after his lecture.

“To think that one of our own — one of us, a Cleveland Hill Eagle — who, as he explained, faced his own challenges academically, early on, found his passion and worked to become the highest ranking civilian to lead NASA. It’s absolutely incredible,” Mac- Swan said.

He then handed a yearbook from 1974 to Scolese after MacSwan discovered Scolese and his wife, Dianne — who was Cleveland Hill’s valedictorian in 1974 — didn’t have a yearbook from that class.

“It’s always fun to come back and see how things have progressed and see the students, how enthusiastic and excited they are,” Scolese said. “If you can share what you did, you may inspire some others to realize they can do things, too.”

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