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NASA’s First Hispanic Astronaut to Visit Merrimack Valley

Submitted by on March 13, 2012 – 2:36 pm

Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz, the first Hispanic NASA astronaut, will present a Northern Essex Community College White Fund lecture titled “My Personal Journey through the American Dream” on Sunday, April 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Lawrence Senior Center, 155 Haverhill St., and again on Monday, April 23 from 8:45 to 10 a.m. at Lawrence High School, 70-71 North Parish St. Both presentations are free and open to the public and are part of a series of events celebrating the college’s 50th anniversary and the Inauguration of President Lane A. Glenn.

Chang Diaz will make a third presentation, sponsored by the NECC Contemporary Affairs Club, from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, April 23 at Northern Essex Community College’s Haverhill campus in the David Hartleb Technology Center, 100 Elliott St. This presentation is also free and open to the public.

The first two presentations also received support from the NECC Fund, the Lawrence Cultural Council, and NECC’s Hispanic Cultural Enrichment Program.

When Chang Diaz arrived in the United States in 1968 from Costa Rica, the 18-year-old had $50 in his pocket and couldn’t speak English. By 1977 he had earned his Ph.D. in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1981 he became the nation’s first Hispanic NASA astronaut. He went on to become a veteran of seven space missions logging more than 1,600 hours in space, including 19 hours in three space walks.

He is also founder and current chairman and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company, a US firm developing advanced plasma rocket technology with operations in Houston, Texas and Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Today, he is an adjunct professor of physics at Rice University and the University of Houston.

For a full schedule of events, visit the college’s 50th anniversary website at

The White Fund’s purpose is to have a free series of interactive presentations for Lawrence area adults, youth, and children. The audience is encouraged to seek wisdom, cultural enrichment, and intellectual enhancement by attending and participating.

Funded by a generous financial gift from the Honorable Daniel Appleton White, the White Fund Lecture Series has provided cultural conversation featuring well-known lecturers in fields such as history, literature, travel, the arts, and politics. The White Fund is collaborating with Northern Essex on this series.

For additional information, call 978-738-7403 or visit the website

The views expressed in the White Fund Enlightenment Series Presentations are the views of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Northern Essex Community College.