Colonel Eileen Collins

Space Shuttle Commander Colonel Eileen Collins Will Deliver Voyages Lecture at ECU

GREENVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 30, 2012) — East Carolina University soon will welcome to campus Colonel Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot and command an American spacecraft, when she delivers the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Voyages of Discovery Space Exploration Lecture at 7 p.m., Nov. 13, in Wright Auditorium. Cosponsored by the ECU Space Grant Project, Collins will discuss "Leadership Lesson from Apollo to Discovery."

Collins has led a life of leadership and achievement. Her dream of becoming a pilot developed during her early childhood, and she first learned to fly at her local airport in Elmira, New York. After graduating from Syracuse University in 1978, Collins entered the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program, where she discovered an even more ambitious and loftier dream to become an astronaut.

Collins' dream became a reality in 1991 when she joined the astronaut program. In 1995, she flew on her first shuttle mission on STS-63 Discovery, becoming the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. In 1999, aboard STS-93 Columbia, Collins hit another milestone when she became the first woman to command a shuttle mission. In July 2005, Collins flew her final NASA mission as commander of STS-114 Discovery's historic 'Return to Flight' mission following the 2003 loss of the shuttle Columbia. A veteran of four space flights, Collins has logged more than 872 hours in space.

"This year's series – like every one before it – is distinguished by true luminaries in their fields," said Dr. Alan R. White, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. "As a pioneering woman, Colonel Collins' achievements inspire others to reach beyond themselves to the highest levels of leadership."

Amongst her many honors, Collins has received a Defense Superior Service Medal; a Distinguished Flying Cross; the French Legion of Honor; the 2005 Al Neuharth Free Spirit of the Year Award; and the National Space Trophy.

Upon receiving the National Space Trophy, Collins spoke of a new dream. She said that "people will discover and invent new ways to fly higher, faster and farther, and that someday humans will travel beyond our solar system. It will be expensive, it will be risky, and we will make mistakes as we go. But we will do it because we are explorers by nature."

This spirit of exploration and discovery lies at the center of the life of Thomas Harriot, for which ECU's College of Arts and Sciences and this lecture series are named. A towering figure of the English Renaissance, Harriot participated in both the life intellectual and the life active. Speakers with the series are thought provoking, recognized leaders from a variety of disciplines, who embody the nature of Harriot.

Financial underwriting for the series is provided by Harriot College's Dean's Advancement Council, various university organizations, and many individual friends and supporters. To make a contribution, or for additional information, contact Dr. John A. Tucker, series director, at 252-328-1028 or You also are invited to visit the series' website at

The series will continue in 2013 with two presentations: the Jarvis Lecture on Christianity and Culture, featuring Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, will be held March 5, 2013; and the joint Thomas Harriot/Lawrence F. Brewster Lecture in History, featuring Dr. Daniel Richter, will be held March 21, 2013.

Complimentary tickets for Collins' space lecture are available to ECU students, faculty and staff members with a valid ECU ID. Tickets for the general public are $10 and may be acquired by calling the ECU Central Ticket Office at 252-328-4788 or 1-800-ECU-ARTS. Individuals requesting accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should call 252-737-1016 (voice/TTY) at least 48 hours prior to the events.

Lacey Gray, Director of Marketing and Communications