WAPAKONETA – The Parade SubCommittee of the 2019 Celebration Committee announced that Ohio native and NASA astronaut Don Thomas will serve as grand marshal for the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Parade at 3 p.m. Sunday in Wapakoneta.
A native of Cleveland, Thomas first became interested in becoming an astronaut when he was 6 years old. Watching the early astronauts such as Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong blasting off into space made him want to follow in their footsteps. Thirty-three years later he would do exactly that.
Thomas received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Case Western Reserve University, earning his master’s and doctorate degrees in materials engineering from Cornell University. Thomas was awarded two patents for inventions related to the packaging of semiconductor devices during his time as a senior member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey (1982-87).
Selected as a mission specialist astronaut in NASA’s 13th group of astronauts in 1990, Thomas is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions, three aboard Columbia and one aboard Discovery. He has spent 44 days in space, completing nearly 700 orbits of the Earth and traveling 17.6 million miles in the process.
Today Thomas serves as director of the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science at Towson University, working to encourage and inspire young students to follow in his footsteps to become the next generation of scientists, engineers, astronauts and explorers.
“We’re very excited to present a wonderful parade that honors Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission and highlights Neil’s relationship with our community and nation,” Parade SubCommittee Chair Molly Maxson-Klemenic said. “We can think of no better grand marshal than Dr. Thomas, whose life of service speaks to the values exemplified by our own Neil Armstrong.”
The 2019 Committee’s mission is to develop and implement public programs, events and legacy efforts that reflect the many themes associated with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon walk and to ensure that Wapakoneta and Auglaize County are at the forefront of this worldwide commemoration.