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Oct 28, 9:37 PM

Evelyn Husband, wife of Col. Rick Husband, USAF Commander, admires the sign in front of the Florida Tech dorm named after him in the Columbia Village on the Melbourne school’s campus. The college dedicated seven residence halls to the seven fallen Columbia astronauts. Image © 2003, Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY

Florida Tech dedicates dorms to Columbia 7

By James Dean

MELBOURNE -- Part of Evelyn Husband had to laugh that a college dormitory had been named for her husband Rick, as she remembered how they had met and dated during their college years at Texas Tech.

Crowds of people on the ground and people in the balcony of Clark Hall, named after fallen Columbia astronaut Laurel Blair Salton Clark, listen to the ceremony dedicating Columbia Village on the Florida Tech campus in Melbourne. Image © 2003, Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY
But on the heels of a solemn ceremony at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday morning, that cheerful memory and the hope inspired by a Florida Tech tribute to the seven Columbia astronauts helped ease the pain of Husband's first trip back to the Space Coast since the space shuttle was scheduled to return Feb. 1.

Columbia's seven crew members died after the shuttle broke up over Texas during its descent to Cape Canaveral.

"This was very uplifting," said Husband, who joined about 20 family members of the fallen astronauts at a 30-minute ceremony officially naming seven new residential halls after the Columbia crew. "This has more of a focus on the future."

Founded in 1958 by scientists close to the space program, Florida Tech has long fed graduates into NASA and been involved in research and experiments carried out by shuttles. So Columbia's break-up had a special impact on its students.

"A tangible sense of loss hung over Florida Tech," said senior computer science major and student government president Rebecca Mazzone.

Last spring, students accustomed to stopping whatever they were doing in order to watch shuttle launches banded together and asked the school to name seven new residence halls in the astronauts' honor.

The request was quickly granted.

"To dedicate a series of halls and residences for students here, the future of the space program looks very bright," said Dr. Jon Clark, the husband of mission specialist Laurel Clark.

More than 100 students crowded the dorms' second-floor balconies and stood in a semi-circle around the white-columned commons area that leads to the new Columbia Village, a $12 million complex that opened this fall and houses about 360 students.

"It's cool that the community and NASA are taking such an interest in something we did as a memorial for the astronauts," said Burt Morse, 19, a sophomore resident of Laurel Clark Hall. "It's nice of the university to make a gesture of goodwill to the families."


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