Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: KU Astronaut Edition

July 18th, 2019

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 – the first manned mission to land on the Moon – this week’s photograph features astronaut Ron Evans (1933-1990), a Kansas native who graduated from KU with a bachelor’s degree in 1955.

A Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, Evans was one of the nineteen astronauts selected by NASA in 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crews for the Apollo 7 and Apollo 11 flights and as backup Command Module Pilot for Apollo 14. Evans’ only space flight was as Command Module Pilot of Apollo 17. (It was during this December 1972 mission that the moon rock housed at Spencer Research Library was collected.)

Photograph of Astronaut Ron Evans presenting a memento carried to the moon, April 1973
Astronaut Ron Evans presenting a KU flag he carried to the moon during the Apollo 17 mission, April 1973. The plaque is inscribed “To the men and women of KU where I took my first steps toward the moon.” Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG LJW P/ Ron Evans (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

During the Apollo 17 mission, Evans piloted the command module to the Moon. Once there, the lunar module separated from the command module and carried astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to the Moon’s surface. Evans (and five mice) maintained lunar orbit while Cernan and Schmitt explored the Moon’s surface, setting records for the longest time in lunar orbit (almost 148 hours) and the number of lunar orbits (seventy-five). According to a NASA description of Apollo 17, Evans also conducted numerous scientific activities.

In addition to the panoramic camera, the mapping camera, and the laser altimeter (which were used on previous missions), three new experiments were included in the service module. An ultraviolet spectrometer measured lunar atmospheric density and composition, an infrared radiometer mapped the thermal characteristics of the Moon, and a lunar sounder acquired data on the subsurface structure.

Finally, Evans brought the astronauts back to Earth. While en route, he completed an hour-long spacewalk to retrieve film cassettes from the lunar sounder, mapping camera, and panoramic camera.

Evans returned to the KU campus in April 1973 to receive the university’s Distinguished Services Award, the highest honor given by the University of Kansas and the KU Alumni Association. (Kenneth and Helen Spencer were the first couple to receive the citation – in 1943 and 1968, respectively.) Evans also spoke a the Senior-Parent luncheon, an event for graduating seniors and their relatives. During the luncheon, Evans presented Chancellor Raymond Nichols with the plaque shown in the photograph above. The plaque was placed in the auditorium of Nichols Hall, which was then the space technology building on campus. The hall’s auditorium was renamed the Ron Evans Apollo Room.

A letter from Robert P. Ryan to Robert E. Foster, 1972
A letter from Robert E. Foster to Robert P. Ryan, 1972
One month before the Apollo 17 mission, KU alumnus Robert P. Ryan at NASA wrote to Robert E. Foster, KU’s Director of Bands, requesting a copy of KU fight songs. Ryan had “received permission to wake up Mr. Evans one morning with” one. Foster was able to provide the songs. Copies of letters in Ron Evans’ biographical file, University Archives. Click images to enlarge.

According to an account in the June 1973 issue of Kansas Alumni, Evans noted in his brief talk at the Senior-Parent luncheon that “I have come back to KU to redeem myself. One day during the flight, they played the Jayhawk fight song three or four times to wake me up and I didn’t hear it!”

An article entitled "Behind the Scenes in the Space Program," Kansas Alumni, March 1973
This article in the March 1973 issue of Kansas Alumni lists the names of KU alumni with known involvement in the space program during preparations for the Apollo 17 mission. Call Number: LH 1 .K3 G73. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Kansas Leader and Innovator: Delano Lewis

January 16th, 2018

One of my first projects in the African American Experience Collections was to help the Field Archivist/Curator, Deborah Dandridge, put together an exhibit titled Education: The Mightiest Weapon. Many of the items that we used came from the Sumner High School Collection, and it didn’t take long for me to notice how accomplished the graduates of that school were. As coincidence would have it, one of my relatives, Delano Lewis, is a Sumner High graduate. Like many of Sumner’s graduates, he went on to accomplish great things like working as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department, becoming Associate Director for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda, and being appointed as the United States Ambassador to South Africa.

Delano Eugene Lewis was born in November of 1938 in Arkansas City, Kansas. His family later moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he attended Sumner High School, graduating in 1956.

Photograph of Delano Lewis, Drum Major, Sumner High School, 1956

Photograph in the 1956 Sumnerian yearbook showing
Delano Lewis (center) as a Drum Major at Sumner High School.
Call Number: RH Ser D1286. Click image to enlarge.

Sumnerian yearbook photograph of Delano Lewis,
President of the Junior Class of
Sumner High School, 1955.
Call Number: RH Ser D1286. Click image to enlarge.

Lewis graduated from the University of Kansas in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History. In 1963, he received his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Washburn University School of Law, after which he went to Washington, D.C., to work as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1967 Lewis served as the Peace Corps’ Country Director in Uganda. After leaving Uganda, he worked as a Legal Assistant for Senator Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.

Photograph of Delano Lewis with Senator Edward Brooke and Vice President Walter Mondale, undated

Delano Lewis (center) with Senator Edward Brooke (left) and
Vice President Walter Mondale (right), undated photograph.
Delano Lewis Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 1075.
Click image to enlarge.

While he held esteemed positions in service of the U.S. government, Lewis also had an impressive corporate career. He served as the Public Affairs Manager for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company in 1973, and in 1990 he became the CEO. In 1993, Lewis was the first African American become the President and CEO of National Public Radio. Then from 1999 to 2001, Lewis was appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa.

Photograph of Delano Lewis with Al Gore, 1997

Delano Lewis (center) with Vice President Al Gore (left), 1997.
Delano Lewis Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 1075. Click image to enlarge.

Initially proposed and funded by Michael Shinn (B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 1966), the KU Black Alumni’s African American Leaders and Innovators project recognized Mr. Lewis in 2007.

Arielle Swopes
Spencer Research Library Student Assistant
African American Experience Collections

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator
African American Experience Collections