Release Date: 6/7/2002
Clarksville, Ark. ---Telling members of the Class of 2002 that they must develop the ability and perseverance to solve problems in their lives, commencement speaker and former NASA astronaut Dr. Jerry Carr had the ideal anecdote to drive home is point.
Ozarks conferred 91 bachelor's degrees during its 168th commencement ceremonies on May 11. The event, held on the campus mall, drew approximately 750 visitors to the university.
Carr, a member of the U of O Board of Trustees, spent 11 years with NASA between 1966 and 1977. He was a U.S. marine jet pilot who became the commander of the Skylab 4 space station that spent 84 days circling the Earth in 1973-74.
But it was the famous "Houston, We've Got a Problem" incident that involved Apollo 13 in 1970 that Carr talked about during Ozarks' commencement on May 11. As three of Carr's fellow astronauts traveled to the moon, an explosion aboard the space craft caused serious problems and sent engineers on the ground scrambling to find solutions to bring the astronauts home safely.
"In the movie, Apollo 13, there was a scene where the mission commander walked into a conference room, dumped items onto a conference table and indicated to about a dozen of his top engineers that this is what the crew had at its disposal," Carr told the audience. "Then he presented them with the round peg in the square hole problem and declared 'Failure is not an option.'
"It really did happen that way. I was there. And I'm here to tell you there is no problem that is insurmountable if you just take the time to understand it thoroughly and then don't give up until its solved. You are going to have problems in your lives. My years at NASA taught me that once a problem is clearly defined, a solution can always be found. We must look for answers and persevere until we find them."
Carr, who makes his home in Huntsville, Ark., with his wife, renowned artist Pat Musick, also talked to the graduates about the importance of goal-setting.
"You've just achieved a major goal in your life, but you're not finished yet," he said. "Goal-setting and attainment is a process that has a major influence on whether or not a person is successful. The pursuit of goals provides one with direction and purpose."
Carr told the Class of 2002 that the years ahead of them "promise great change; in the way we live, buy things and use them, and the work that we do."
"These years are yours to explore," he said. "They are yours to fulfill with your energy and exuberance, your inquisitiveness and daring, and with inventiveness, initiative and drive toward wider horizons. They are yours to pioneer. Make your lives count. The world will be better because you tried."