Air University honors former astronaut with honorary degree

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melissa Copeland
  • Air University Public Affairs
The commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon, was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree by Air University officials for his contributions to aviation and space exploration at the USAF Test Pilot School Saturday.

Retired Col. Frank Borman received the honorary degree presented by Lt. Gen. Allen G. Peck, the Air University commander, in front of family, friends, faculty and students at the graduation ceremony.

As a retired Air Force officer, distinguished alumnus and former instructor at the TPS, the location proved appropriate for the awarding of the degree.

"As the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force, it is fitting that an honorary degree be bestowed upon someone who has distinguished himself not only as an internationally-known leader in aviation, but as the epitome of the Test Pilot School," said Dr. Bruce T. Murphy, AU Chief Academic Officer.

After selection by NASA for astronaut training in 1962, the Gary, Ind., native, served as commander of the Gemini 7 mission recognized as the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit. During that same mission, Colonel Borman and fellow astronaut Jim Lovell became the first men to spend 14 consecutive days in space.

After the Apollo 204 fire in 1967, which killed three astronauts, Colonel Borman was chosen as the only astronaut on the investigation review board where he was instrumental in convincing Congress to continue future space explorations.

"As the Apollo program resident manager, [Colonel Borman] directed the reengineering of the Apollo spacecraft that played a major role in restoring faith in the Apollo program and morale in [his] fellow astronauts," General Peck said.

In December 1968, the "dean of Astronauts," led Apollo 8 as the first spacecraft to leave Earth's gravitational field and circle the moon.

Also in 1968, the Apollo 8 crew was indisputably named Time Magazine's Men of the Year for their space explorations and Time Magazine declared that "your names would be remembered along with those of Marco Polo and Amundsen, Captain Cook and Colonel Lindberg."

Colonel Borman served as liaison to President Richard Nixon during the Apollo 11 lunar landing and later became a special presidential ambassador on a worldwide tour to encourage the better treatment and release of American Prisoners of War held in North Vietnam. His successful interactions with foreign leaders resulted in a commendation from the Secretary of State.

Later, Colonel Borman became the President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chairman of Eastern Airlines, leading the organization through turbulent times and engineering numerous improvements resulting in the company's four most profitable years.

The "intrepid space pioneer" was honored throughout his career with numerous awards, honors and trophies: by the President of the United States with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor; by the Air Force with the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross; and induction into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.

He was also awarded the Harmon International Aviation Trophy, the Robert J. Collier Trophy and the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal.

In addition, Colonel Borman was twice honored at Air University's Gathering of Eagles, which recognizes aviation legends.

During his address as the guest speaker to the TPS graduates, who hail from different countries and services, Colonel Borman spoke about his aviation and space experiences while highlighting the significant changes and improvements in the Air Force, aviation and space. He also recounted the unchanging mission of today's Air Force and the Air Force he served.

He shared characteristics of successful leaders to the TPS graduates - to be confident, have integrity, be knowledgeable and demonstrate a willingness to take risks.

"This is the 40th anniversary of the first person on the moon," Doctor Murphy said. "So there is a focus on space, there is a focus on exploration. There is no person better than Frank Borman to highlight the Air Force's role in the exploration of space."

Colonel Borman is the second honorary degree recipient since the inception of the AU program in 2007, which is designed to recognize individuals who are extraordinary contributors in education, government, public service, civic and community affairs; industry, commerce and labor; and the arts, letters and science.

The first recipient was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who received the doctor of letters degree in April 2008 for her academic achievements and contributions to international relations and national security.