MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University alumna and former NASA director Sue Darnell Ellis will present a special lecture entitled “Creating Tomorrows by Dreaming Today” on August 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Wrather Auditorium. The lecture will be streamed live at murraystate.edu/streaming.
At just 18 years old, Darnell Ellis took her first steps on the path that would lead her into the NASA Teacher in Space Program. She attended Murray State University, graduating with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and science in 1980. She said, “As I tell others all the time, Murray State University is an awesome school — you can’t get a better education anywhere.” She later earned her master’s degree in teaching (1984), along with multiple education certifications and her Rank I in education administration (1987).
She began her professional career as a teacher, working in Marshall County and Paducah Independent Schools in Kentucky. “As a child, I loved space. I was 11 years old when we walked on the moon. I dreamed of a career in space but could never have planned my career,” said Darnell Ellis.
She was selected as NASA’s Kentucky Teacher in Space Ambassador in 1985. Her life changed with the Challenger disaster in 1986, when she was recruited to Paducah Independent Schools and later to the Kentucky Department of Education, where she directed the first state-based Space Science Education Program that served 2,500 teachers across the Commonwealth. It was during this time that she was recruited by NASA to reform their education programs nationwide.
Among her many awards and recognition, Sue Darnell Ellis received the national Christa McAuliffe Memorial Teaching Award for the Improvement of Mathematics and Science Education from the Aerospace Education Foundation of the U.S. Air Force Association in 1990. The following year she was named the National A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Teacher of the Year by the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education.
In 1993 she joined NASA to coordinate teacher programming in all 50 states for the Aerospace Education Services Program and the National Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers. During her nearly 25-year career with NASA, she supported the implementation of national standards in science, math and technology. She also coordinated curriculum development, bringing aerospace education into thousands of classrooms.
According to Darnell Ellis, the key to success is dreaming big and not being afraid of failure. “Our mistakes often lead us to more knowledge than our successes,” she explained.
She will return Murray State to share her journey working with NASA just days before the 2017 Solar Eclipse captures the world’s attention. The event will darken the region for upwards of two minutes and 41 seconds on August 21.
The lecture, sponsored by Murray State University, Murray State University Alumni Association and the Town & Gown Partnership Program, is free and open to the community.