Dr. Peggy Whitson ’81, renowned record-breaking NASA astronaut returned to Iowa Wesleyan University, her alma mater, for the 176th birthday of the University. Dr. Whitson was the featured keynote speaker for Founders Day, addressing a standing room only crowd at the University Chapel on February 14. Before taking the stage, Dr. Whitson was presented the Presidential Medal for Outstanding Merit by Steven E. Titus, President of Iowa Wesleyan University. During his introduction of Whitson he said “The best way to introduce her on this important occasion is to honor her with the Iowa Wesleyan University Presidential Medal for Outstanding Merit.” Whitson was also presented the key to the City of Mount Pleasant by Mayor Steve Brimhall.
During her address, she humbly spoke of her Iowan roots and the work ethic that was taught by her parents and mentors. She reminded the audience to never give up dreaming as she fought to live out her own dreams, crediting Iowa Wesleyan Professor D.P. Wilson who encouraged her to pursue her passion. The record-breaking astronaut stated, “Iowa Wesleyan was the only choice for me. The relationships and encouragement to pursue my dreams was very important to my life.” She went on to say, “The most important step in life is passion. Opportunities are not handed to us. We have to work for them and a strong work ethic is essential to live your dreams.”
Later in the afternoon, Whitson presented her journey in space to over 1,000 Southeast Iowa school children ranging in age from 6th to 12th graders. She encouraged the students to a life of success saying “The criteria that made me the most successful is pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It leads you to a life of more than you dream of.” Students were able to ask questions of Whitson who light-heartedly responded to them all. She said “I don’t know what I want to be when I grows up but maybe in 15 or 20 years, I’ll go to Mars as there isn’t a return ticket to go there now.”
To see videos and photos from the day, visit iw.edu/Peggy.
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