SAAAHOF 2020 Honorees

June Scobee Rodgers, Ph.D.

June Scobee Rodgers, Ph.D.

June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Richard “Dick” Scobee, has dedicated her time and energy to continuing the crew’s educational mission. Immediately following the tragedy, Dr. Rodgers channeled grief into action and led the Challenger shuttle families, along with others, to create Challenger Center – a living tribute to their loved ones, one of the Challenger Centers, known as the Scobee Education Center, was opened in October 2014 on the Campus of San Antonio College. Dr. Rodgers serves as a Founding Chairman of the Challenger Center, where each year hundreds of thousands of students participate in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) focused programs. Dr. Rodgers is an educator, author, and speaker, and an inspiration to everyone she meets. As an educator, Dr. Rodgers has appeared on numerous national television programs promoting innovative educational partnerships, and has served on the President’s National Advisory Council on Education. Dr. Rodgers is personally proud of the fact that she has taught in every grade-level classroom from kindergarten through college. In 2015, Dr. Rodgers received the distinguished Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award. Originally from Alabama, Dr. Rodgers grew up in San Antonio. Dr. Rodgers holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, a Master’s from Chapman College, CA, and a Bachelor’s of Science from Charleston Southern University, S.C. Dr. Rodgers graduated from Harlandale High School and then attended San Antonio College where she later received an Honorary Associate’s Degree. Dr. Rodgers is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of Leicester, England.

Col. Thomas M. McNish, M.D. MPH (USAF Ret.)

Col. Thomas M. McNish, M.D. MPH (USAF Ret.)

Tom McNish attended North Carolina State University for one year before entering the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1960. McNish graduated and was commissioned a 2d Lt on June 3, 1964, and completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings in September 1965 at Williams AFB, Arizona. He next completed F-105 Thunderchief combat crew training before being assigned to the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in June 1966. Lt McNish was shot down over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on September 4, 1966, while flying his 45th combat mission in Southeast Asia. After spending 2,373 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, before beginning his pre-medicine classes at Emory University. Capt McNish graduated from Emory University School of Medicine in June 1978, and interned in the Department of Family Practice at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. He completed family practice residency in 1981 and then began a residency in Aerospace Medicine at Brooks AFB, Texas, where he graduated in June 1983. During this time he was selected for the USAF Pilot-Physician program. Dr. McNish served as Chief of Aeromedical Services and Commander of the Air Transportable Hospital at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, from December 1983 to May 1985, and then as Commander of the USAF Hospital at Myrtle Beach, where he served until July 1986. During this time, he maintained mission-ready qualification in the A-10 Thunderbolt II, flying with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, and was designated by Tactical Air Command as the weapons system flight surgeon for the A-10. Col McNish next served as Commander of the 833rd Medical Group and the 833rd Tactical Hospital at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, from July 1986 to October 1988. He flew the AT-38 Talon with the 479th Tactical Training Wing while at Holloman. He was then assigned as Chief of Flight Medicine in the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General until June 1991, when he became the Command Surgeon in the Office of the Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon, where he served until his retirement from the Air Force on July 1, 1994.Col.McNish is a member and currently serves as President of the 4th Allied P.O.W. Wing.

United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks AFB, Texas

The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) is the United States Air Force (USAF) organization focused on education, research, and worldwide operational consultation in aerospace and operational medicine. USAFSAM was founded in 1918 to conduct research into the medical and physiologic domains related to human flight, and as a school for medical officers trained to support military aviation operations, later coined as flight surgeons. The school supported early military aviation from World War I through the evolution of aviation and into the modern era. USAFSAM conducted medical research and provided medical support for the initial US space operations beginning in 1947 through the establishment of NASA in 1958. After the creation of NASA, USAFSAM continued to actively support civilian and military manned space missions through clinical and physiologic research. USAFSAM is the oldest continually operating school for flight surgeons and other operational medical personnel of its kind in the world.

It began operations on January 19,1918 at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, Long Island, NY. In August 1926 the School was moved to Brooks Field in San Antonio and in October 1931 it was moved to Randolph Field. On 10 May 1957, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the construction of the New School of Aviation Medicine at Brooks AFB. The first Primary Course in Aviation Medicine was held at the new campus on Brooks AFB on 11 August 1959. On 8 August 1961 the School name was changed to The School of Aerospace Medicine. On 21 November 1963, President John F. Kennedy dedicated the new school complex at Brooks AFB (the photo is of JFK on that day speaking with airmen in a pressure chamber) the day before he was assassinated in Dallas. This was Kennedy’s last official act as president and the location of his famous over the wall speech inviting the nation to embrace space exploration, in which he said:

Frank O'Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall--and then they had no choice but to follow them. This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome. Whatever the hazards, they must be guarded against. With the vital help of this Aerospace Medical Center, with the help of all those who labor in the space endeavor, with the help and support of all Americans, we will climb this wall with safety and with speed-and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.

In 2005 the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) ordered the removal of the Air Force mission from Brooks City Base and the activation of the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio but the facilities at Brooks still exist and are currently being operated by KBRWyle where to this day the US Navy Blue Angels and other US and foreign civilian and military pilots still receive some of their training.

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