UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Leland Melvin, an engineer, educator, former NASA astronaut, and former NFL wide receiver, will present “Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances” as part of the 26th annual Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25. The virtual event is free and open to the public. Registration to attend is required.
The Luchinsky Memorial Lecture Series was endowed by family and friends to honor the memory of Mark Luchinsky through the support of a speaker who exemplifies intellectual honesty, personal integrity and joy in learning. The 26th annual event is co-sponsored by the Schreyer Honors College, the Multicultural Association of Schreyer Scholars, the Multicultural Resource Center, Penn State Educational Equity, Penn State Gender Equity Center, Penn State Hillel, the Presidential Leadership Academy, and Schreyer Student Council.
Melvin, a native of Lynchburg, Virginia, took an unusual route to the stars. He was a standout wide receiver at the University of Richmond, where he studied chemistry, and finished as the program’s all-time leader in receptions. He was a late-round selection in the 1986 NFL Draft before hamstring injuries derailed his pro football career. He began work as a research scientist for NASA in 1989, received a master’s degree in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia in 1991, and was selected as an astronaut in 1998.
He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on mission STS-122 (2008) and STS-129 (2009), helping to construct the International Space Station. He also led NASA Education and co-chaired the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEM Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan.
Melvin knows well the value of second chances. He lost his hearing in an underwater spacewalk simulation accident while training for his first spaceflight but regained partial hearing several weeks later. A speaker at numerous events around the world each year, Melvin said he hopes to inspire young audiences – including Penn State students during the lecture – to find their purpose.
“The main thing that I want to talk about is possibility,” Melvin said, “and having an ability that, no matter what postal code or zip code you’re from, with an opportunity, with access, and with belief in yourself, that you can do anything. And I’m an example of that. Through setbacks, through many different trials, I was able to still stay focused on the dream and rise.”
About the Mark Luchinsky Memorial Lecture
Luchinsky was a Schreyer Scholar and biochemistry major at Penn State who died in 1995 at the age of 20. A native of Pittsburgh who graduated first in his class from Thomas Jefferson High School, he was a member of the Penn State Golden Key Society and the Alpha Epsilon Delta Premedical Honor Society. Known for his intellectual honesty and integrity, Luchinsky enjoyed the study of all subjects and loved the classics, sports, poetry, history and geography.
Past Luchinsky lecturers have included Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For All and Teach For America; Sean Misko, special adviser to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Schreyer Scholar alumna Mary Beth Long, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense. Additional information about the Mark Luchinsky Lecture and a list of previous speakers is available at https://www.shc.psu.edu/life/programs/luchinsky/.