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02/19/2012 10:25 am ET

John Glenn 50th Anniversary: Celebration at OSU

The upcoming John Glenn Anniversary Celebration will honor the astronaut’s heroic past, but his legacy of public service continues into the present.

On Monday, Feb. 20 the Ohio State University Alumni Association will host a banquet to honor Senator John Glenn's accomplishments and impact. The date marks the 50th anniversary of the astronaut's historic flight aboard the Friendship 7, the voyage that made Senator Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth. Senator Glenn's ties to OSU center on the establishment of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs in 2006, with undergraduate and graduate programs that aim to provide students with training in public service, leadership and civic engagement. The founding of the school came after Glenn’s 24 years of service as a U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio.

"I can at least speak on behalf of students in the Glenn School that we are truly excited for the event and proud to study in the school that bears his name,” said Steven Redd, an undergraduate student in the school of Public Affairs.

The keynote speaker for the John Glenn tribute is Captain Mark Kelly, the commander of the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission. The banquet will take place in the Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom at Ohio State University, and proceeds will benefit those currently involved with the John Glenn School of Public Affairs and OSU's College of Engineering. A news release by the university indicates that OSU is hoping to raise more than $2 million for student scholarship.

The university has several exhibitions currently on display about Glenn’s life and career. According to Craig Boardman, Assistant Professor at the Glenn School, media outlets such as People magazine and CBS news have come to photograph Senator Glenn on campus, adding to the excitement surrounding the event. “There’s definitely a buzz,” said Boardman.

The Ohio Union, the venue where the event will take place, has been decorated with posters honoring Senator Glenn’s achievements. Adding to the campus buzz is the centrality of the Union building – many students pass by the posters each day while traveling around campus.

At $1,000 a head, tickets to the actual anniversary celebration reflect in price the weight of the honoree's accomplishments. Boardman predicted an attendance of several hundred, and more people will attend the later “NASA Future Forum,” a conference taking place from Feb. 20-21.

Still, the lack of a VIP ticket in no way prevents members of the Glenn School from engaging with the celebrated hero.

“He talks to me like he’s known me his whole life,” said Boardman, whose office is a few doors down from Senator Glenn’s. He adds, “I watched World Cup soccer with him a few years ago.”

Regarding the celebration of Senator Glenn’s “legacy,” students and faculty are quick to comment that his commitment to public service continues into the present, both in Columbus, Ohio, and at a national level.

“People keep talking about his legacy, about his past and not what he’s currently doing,” said Boardman. “Professor Glen takes public service to a whole new level – he didn’t just do his duty then retire. He has done some amazing things and will continue to do amazing things and I don’t see anyone who’s had that type of career who’s still as active as he is now.”

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