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Encyclopedia of Baldwin Wallace University History: Alumni - O

An Index of Historical Content and Their Sources

Overmyer, Robert "Bob"

Citation: Dorothy Marks McKelvey, "News by Classes; '58," Alumnus (July 1966): pg. 23.

Astronaut Robert F. Overmyer in 1982 at NASA; Source: Wikipedia.org; Click on image to enlarge.

Marine Capt. Robert F. Overmyer has been assigned by the Air Force to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program at Edwards AFB, Calif...

Citation: Jean McKeon, "Astronaut Overmyer to pilot Columbia," Pursuit, vol. 14, no. 3 (Spring 1982): pg. 1.

When we speak of the careers of B-W alumni which have soared to great heights, none can be taken as literally as that of USMC Colonel Robert F. Overmyer '58 who, on November 11, will pilot the inveterate traveler Columbia as it lifts off from Cape Canaveral on its fifth flight into space. During a five-day voyage, he and his three fellow crewmen will conduct an extensive series of experiments and use the Columbia for commercial purpose when they launch two communication satellites into orbit.

The colonel epitomizes the image of the 72 men and eight women who currently comprise the elite corps of astronauts. With his chiseled features and trim build, aided by running two miles each morning, he looks like an astronaut. He also exudes confidence and speaks as though he is in total control in any situation. Yet, pardon the pun, he is completely down-to-earth.

This came across clearly in a telephone conversation with the future space explorer when, at the College's request, he called from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to answer some questions about his November assignment.

People might make the assumption that becoming an astronaut is a life's dream come true . . to fill the space boots of childhood heroes such as Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. "Not really," Overmyer said, putting to rest that misplaced logic. "My heroes were athletes like Bob Feller and Otto Graham because I was a sports enthusiast. Becoming an astronaut was just a natural progression of my career as a military pilot. That's the way it's worked for most of us [astronauts]. Now, becoming a pilot . . . that was something I dreamed about."

That dream brought Overmyer from his Westlake home to Baldwin-Wallace as a physics major. "I couldn't afford private flying lessons, so I decided to enter college, get my degree and enter military flight training." Looking back at his B-W years, Overmyer cited two professors who were particularly helpful in guiding him toward his present career: Theodore S. Bogardus, professor of engineering from 1943 to 1972, and the late Dean L. Robb, professor of mathematics from 1946 to 1956. 

He is also grateful to B-W for providing the setting where he met a cheerleader named Katherine E. Jones of Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who became his wife and left college after her junior year as her new husband began his military career. It was a career that took him through Navy flight training, several squadron tours and eventually into graduate studies in aeronautical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School. In 1965 he was selected for Air Force Test Pilots School and a year later was chosen for the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. When that was cancelled in 1969, he moved to the NASA program. 

Meanwhile, the Overmyers were busy raising three children, Carolyn, 16, Patricia, 14, and Robert, 12. Just how does his family cope with the stress that his new assignment might create? "There's not really much to cope with," he explained. "We've all known this eventually happen. In fact, we knew for quite a while before the official announcement [in March] that I'd been chosen for the fifth flight. We had to cancel a ski trip so I could start my preparation."

Surely his family will have to adjust to his new found fame . . . Overmyer laughed, "What fame? We're not like those lunar landing teams whose names became household words. A week after we come down I bet it will be hard for people to remember us. As far as my children are concerned, there are 80 astronaut families in Houston, so being the child of an astronaut is not unusual. Let's put it this way, my space flight won't get my children a better place in the lunch line!"

What Overmyer hopes his flight will do is promote the space program and keep the public interested. To make sure all goes well in November the future Columbia pilot is concentrating on a rigorous training schedule. There is no such thing as a typical day for Overmyer who might spend the morning in the space shuttle simulator then fly 700 miles to El Paso, Texas, where he practices take-offs and landings. Or, he may spend long periods of time in the Johnson Space Center water tank to assimilate weightlessness. For every hour of formal training, he undergoes two to three hours of preparation. As the flight draws near, he will put in nearly 60 hours a week.

Is it all worth it? "Absolutely," he says without hesitation. "This is the biggest thrill of my life, and I hope it's only the beginning. Someday I'd like to command a flight and get more chances at the stars."

For now, Colonel Overmyer is looking only towards November, and as he guides Columbia toward touchdown, the B-W community will watch and listen with a special sense of pride.

Citation: "Col. Robert Overmyer returns to B-W for a hero's welcome," Pursuitvol. 14, no. 4 (Fall-Winter 1982): pg. 1-2.

Colonel Overmyer's senior photo from 1958. Source: Grindstone, 1958, pg.45. Click on image to enlarge.

November 11-16, 1982. A life-long dream came true for Marine Colonel Robert F. Overmyer '58, when he piloted the fifth mission of the space shuttle Columbia - the largest one-capsule crew and first commercial flight of the United States shuttle program.

Baldwin-Wallace, the City of Westlake where Overmyer grew up, and NASA Lewis Research Center honored the astronaut with a hero's welcome.

A Recognition Dinner on December 8 at Baldwin-Wallace's Strosacker College Union, included the presentation of an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Colonel Overmyer, who earned his bachelor of science in physics from B-W in 1958.

More than 450 high school and college classmates, family, former teachers, civic leaders, and NASA officials filled Strosacker College Union Ballroom to welcome Overmyer and his wife, Kit Johnson '61, and to hear him share his experiences aboard STS-5.

Beginning with his 3:19 a.m. wake-up call on November 11, Overmyer described the vital stages of the lift-off. Events that "had to go right" in order for the three-million ton shuttle to even begin revolutions around the Earth were remembered. He vividly recalled the moments after lift-off when abort was still possible, moments when his heart raced as they soared into space, grateful that everything was proceeding as scheduled.

Once the shuttle was locked into orbit, the crew settled into the routines which have become well known to millions of TV viewers. Overmyer drew for the audience a vivid picture of the most memorable parts of the trip - sunrises and sunsets, especially since every 90-minutes the Columbia circled the Earth. He said that during the scheduled breakfasts, which allowed him to peer down on Australia daily, he was keenly aware of the fact that he was over tribes of Aborigines, still in the stone age, while piloting the most technologically advanced form of transportation known to modern man. 

Stressing that "we did work most of the time," he told also of the antics and laughs he and the other three crew members experienced in the weightless atmosphere of space as they "floated like Superman;" the thrill of launching the two $20 million communication satellites; and the disappointment the crew felt when the space suit fan failed to work, preventing the two mission specialists from making their scheduled space walk. 

He also described the awesomeness and tenseness of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere at 17,000 miles per minute and the feeling of just wanting to get the bird back down safely, and the joy of landing. 

"Words cannot express how much I enjoyed the experience," he said of the Columbia flight, "It was a tremendous ride." He also indicated that he hopes to make the trip again in the future.

Immediately following the formal dinner, the audience was able to view a 17-minute film capsuling the six-day space venture - lift-off, daily routines, special moments, views from space, and landing. Although no narration accompanied the film, all present, old and young, watched in silence, eyes open wide with wonder, pride and admiration, for the man who minutes earlier had shared his dream-come-true space trip.

Overmyer presented to B-W several momentoes which "flew aboard the first operational flight of STS-5": three separate mounted B-W pennants and flight patches, one for the students, one for the faculty, and one for the staff; a Berea grindstone that rode in his survival kit pocket instead of the NASA-issued Swiss Army knife; a large color portrait of himself in his NASA space suit. All will be placed in a permanent display on the campus.

Citation: "A life-long dream came true...," (1996).

November 11-16, 1982. A life-long dream came true for Marine Colonel and B-W alumnus (‘58) Robert F. Overmyer, when he piloted the fifth mission of space shuttle Columbia--the largest one-capsule crew and first commercial flight of the United States shuttle program.

Baldwin-Wallace, the City of Westlake where Overmyer grew up, and NASA Lewis Research Center honored the astronaut with a hero's welcome.

More than 450 high school and college classmates, family, former teachers, civic leaders and NASA officials filled Strosacker College Union Ballroom to welcome Overmyer and his wife, Kit Johnson '61, and to hear him share his experiences aboard the STS-5.

Beginning with his 3:19 a.m. wake-up call on November 11, Overmyer described the vital stages of the lift-off. Events that "had to go right" in order for the three-million ton shuttle to even begin revolutions around the Earth were remembered. He vividly recalled the moments after lift-off when abort was still possible, moments when his heart raced as they soared into space, grateful that everything was proceeding as scheduled.

Once the shuttle was locked into orbit, the crew settled into the A routines which have become well known to millions of TV viewers, Overmyer drew for the audience a vivid picture of the most memorable parts of the trip- -sunrises and sunsets, especially since every 90-minuts the Columbia circled the Earth. He said that during the scheduled breakfasts, which allowed him to peer down on Australia daily, he was keenly aware of the fact he was looking over tribes of Aborigines, still in the stone age, while piloting the most technologically advanced form of transportation known to modern man.

Stressing that "we did work most of the time,'' he told also of the antics and laughs he and the three other crew members experienced in the weightless atmosphere of space as they "floated like Superman; "the thrill of launching the two $20 million communication satellites; and the disappointment the crew felt when the space suit fan failed to work, preventing the two mission specialists from making their scheduled space walk.

He also described the awesome and tenseness of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere at 17,000 miles per minute and the feeling of just wanting to get the bird back down safely, and the joy of landing.

Immediately following the formal dinner, the audience was able to view a 17-minute film capsuling the six-day space venture-lift- off, daily routines, special moments, views from space, and landing. Although no narration accompanied the film, all present, old and young, watched in silence, eyes open wide with wonder, pride and admiration, for the man who minutes earlier had shared his dream-come-true trip through space.

Overmyer presented to B-W several momentoes which "flew aboard the first operational flight of STS-5": three separate mounted B-W pennants and flight patches, one for the students, one for the faculty, and one for the staff; a Berea grindstone that rode in his survival kit pocket instead of his NASA- issued Swiss Army knife; a large color portrait of himself in his NASA space suite. All will be placed in a permanent display on campus.