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May 1, 2006

Alumna Kathryn D. Sullivan honored with atrium dedication

By Ann Gibb

Family, fellow alumni, and distinguished guests gathered on April 21 to celebrate the career and achievements of Kathryn Sullivan (B.S. Earth sciences, Cowell College, '73) as the atrium in the Earth and Marine Sciences Building was named in her honor.

Photo: Denice Denton, Kathryn Sullivan

Chancellor Denton, left, and Kathryn Sullivan, right, join Jennifer Lehman, the first recipient of the Kathryn D. Sullivan Scholarship in Earth and Marine Sciences.

Recalling her UC Santa Cruz education and its profound impact on her career and life, Sullivan, science adviser at the Center of Science & Industry in Ohio and a former astronaut, expressed deep appreciation for her UCSC experience.

"The faculty here let learning flourish," she said. "We pursued discovery together, and they treated us like peers."

Sullivan entered UCSC as a linguistics major and discovered she needed three science classes to fulfill general education requirements. After trying what she described as  "every trick in the book to get out of them," Sullivan enrolled in oceanography and Earth sciences classes, which proved a turning point in her life. The study of science connected with her lifelong interest in how the systems of the Earth work, and she received strong encouragement and support from UCSC faculty to pursue a science career.

Sullivan went on to earn a Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University, was one of the first six women named to the U.S. space program, and became the first American woman to walk in space. In her career since the space program, Sullivan has worked as an educator and advocate for increasing public understanding of science and for promoting science education, especially for young women and girls.

"I am immensely proud of you and the motivation, perseverance, and dedication to each of the different and important missions you have undertaken," said Earth sciences professor Gary Griggs, one of Sullivan's early faculty mentors, as he introduced her at the dedication.

Chancellor Denice D. Denton called Sullivan "a dedicated explorer of our world, from the ocean to space," and cited some of Sullivan's many accomplishments, including her NASA mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Images from the Hubble are used by UCSC astronomers, contributing to our number-one ranking in the nation for academic research impact in space sciences," said Denton. "Kathy’s work as an astronaut has directly contributed to research at UCSC today."

Special guests at the dedication included former Congressman Leon Panetta, who served with Sullivan on the Pew Oceans Commission, and Jennifer Lehman, a College Nine biochemistry major completing her thesis on carbon assimilation in the ocean. Lehman is the first recipient of the Kathryn D. Sullivan Scholarship in Earth and Marine Sciences. The Sullivan Scholarship supports students as they gain real-world experience in building scientific knowledge while shaping a broad understanding of environmental stewardship and policy issues.

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