High Tech with a Human Touch
The Challenger Memorial (1987)
One of the early university traditions was that students would gather in the classroom quad to watch and applaud and cheer as rockets were launched from the Kennedy Space Center. On that cold January morning in 1986, when the Challenger Disaster occurred, Florida Tech students had gathered in front of the library for the launch. Ellison S. Onizuka, a Challenger astronaut, had recently lectured in Gleason Auditorium as part of Florida Tech's Engineering Week.
This memorial was erected by the Florida Tech chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society, as a memorial to all of America's fallen astronauts.
Gus Grissom, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, was the first recipient of an honorary doctorate from the university in 1961. When NASA learned that Major Grissom was to receive the degree, they told him and the other Mercury astronauts that NASA policies prohibited the acceptance of honorary degrees. Grissom replied, "I'm accepting the degree anyway." NASA grumbled, and Grissom marched.