It was very sad news to learn that Neil Armstrong, first man to step on the moon (for reals) passed away, at the age of 82. For those of us who were compis at the time, the moon landing was the brief exhale moment for our decade of tragedy. We had assassinations: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy. We had the murders and brutal beatings of hundreds of civil rights advocates. We had a vile "conflict" which claimed our young in a foreign jungle and claimed innocents in and around that jungle. We were about to get Richard Nixon as President.
And in all of that nightmare decade -- we had a grainy moment on teevee, with a tearful Walter Cronkite, showing us that NASA successfully landed men on the moon -- and Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. The sheer joy of that moment was recently shared with the sheer joy of the Mars landing.
Imagine -- it was 1969 -- and we had video from the moon. I know young folks today don't find that amazing. The oldsters among us are still gobsmacked.
And -- there were actually women and nuns involved.
I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery in September, 1968. I was 18 and ready for college. My group started at the multi-community Diocesan Sisters College and then transferred to St. Joseph College which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy.
Sister Mary Ellen Murphy, PhD. was a chemist and professor at that time -- and it appears, still today. I misspoke in an early comment, stating that she was my professor. I feel that about all of the faculty -- but I sure as hell wasn't competent enough to be in one of Sister Mary Ellen's classes. I'm a science/math moran but an internationally famous literary genius -- fair trade-off.
Prior to the moon landing, Sister Mary Ellen was part of a team of scientists working on an asteroid segment. That team was then asked to figure out what kind of gloves a potential moon-landing crew would need re: moon rocks.
She not only had total approval by her religious order, which is consummately progressive -- she was accepted by a public university for this work. In her speech before the graduating class of 2012, she indicated that the nuns basically fudged what she was doing in reports to the hierarchy. Hahahahahah. I love this woman.
After the successful mission to the moon, Sister Mary Ellen Murphy was one of many scientists who were involved with the chemical analysis of the moon rocks. Youngsters here might not remember that there was a fear of bringing back a horrible thingy (aka Republicanisitis) that would destroy our planet. This was a BFD.
Sister Mary Ellen and the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Saint Joseph are among the reasons I am utterly proud to be a woman who happened to be Catholic and who had the chance to be educated by brilliant and vibrant women (and a few men).
If you have the patience -- and it is only 13 minutes -- please watch Sister Mary Ellen's talk to the 2012 graduates of Saint Joseph College -- soon to be a University. I adore my alma mater. But I love this woman who represents everything girls could achieve many, many decades ago.
Tolerate the bad music intro -- it disappears for her main points.
I was born the year Sister Mary Ellen graduated from St. Joseph College. I'm 62.
Much love to all the women in my life who made me understand that we have no limits as long as we don't take no for an answer. And a call out to Sister Joan Cook, who increased my love of Geoffrey Chaucer and was my favorite professor.