Mark Kelly Touches Down At Cole Hall

Revered Astronaut Speaks at Convocation

Christian Sherman, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, VA.- On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Astronaut and Naval Pilot Mark Kelly came and spoke at Bridgewater College. At the convocation, there was a huge turnout as Cole Hall reached full capacity, forcing many guests to stand along the back wall of the hall. 

The night began with Director of Endowed Lecture and Sociology Professor Skip Burzumato introducing College President David Bushman who then introduced Kelly. 

Kelly’s speech was often humorous and anecdotal and largely centered around his wife. 

Kelly began the convocation by talking about his New Jersey upbringing and the impact his parents had on him growing up. Kelly mentioned his dad was a detective while his mom worked hard herself to to become a cop. 

He said it was his mom who showed him the importance of having a plan and setting goals for yourself. “This was the first time in my life that I saw the power of having a goal and plan and what it meant to work really, really hard for something. And it really inspired me and I started working harder myself and certainly started doing a lot better in school, I started setting goals for myself,” Kelly stated. 

Kelly then narrated a traumatic experience he had working as an EMT in high school in which he picked up a man who had “seven bullet holes in him. An experience with that young guy would become a very real, immediate part of my own life, when I first learned the extent of my wife Gabby’s injuries,” Kelly said. Kelly then proceeded to discuss some of the struggles he faced early-on in his way to becoming a pilot. He admitted they were many tests and challenges that he performed poorly on early on in his career. 

He then talked about his experiences in the 1991 Gulf War as a fighter pilot and bomber. He elaborated on the missions he had to carry out and what it is like to be in battle and shot at. He also told the story of a mistake he made that almost led to him being shot down by other American pilots. 

The speech then shifted towards his wife, Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, and the assassination attempt that she fell victim to in Febuary of 2011. Kelly spoke about what it was like getting that dreaded phone call and the following plane ride from Houston to Arizona, and mentioned watching various news networks falsely, though he did not know it at the time, pronounce her dead on his flight to see her. 

The conversation then turned away from Gifford to his days with NASA. He also discussed what he looks for in selecting a team. 

The lecture then shifted back to Gifford and her recovery and all that she had to go through after the shooting. Kelly mentioned numerous reconstructive surgeries for Gifford’s face and having to attend the trial and sentencing hearings for the shooter among other hardships. 

The convocation was a great success for Bridgewater, bringing out and uniting many Bridgewater students as well as many members of the community.