Retired Astronaut Col. Fred Gregory Addresses Future of Space Flight and Recognizes SU Recipients of the Astronaut Scholarship

Alex Metcalf, Col. Fred Gregory, and Matt Cufari stand in a line smiling for photos on the stage of the NVRC, standing in front of a row of military flags and a podium with a large orange block S

Alex Metcalf '22 G'23 and Matt Cufari '23 stand for photos with Col. Gregory while be recognized as recipients of the Astronaut Scholarship.

On Tuesday, February 28th, CFSA hosted retired astronaut Col. Fred Gregory and Nicole Russ, the Director of the Astronaut Scholarship Program, on campus to celebrate SU's status as a University Partner with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and promote the program to SU's STEM students. During his visit, Col. Gregory presented a talk on the future of space flight and recognized two Syracuse University recipients of the Astronaut Scholarship, Alex Metcalf '22 G'23 and Matt Cufari '23, at the K.G. Tan Auditorium in the National Veterans Resource Center. To a crowd of more than 100 students, faculty, and staff, Col. Gregory provided insights into his time as an Air Force pilot, astronaut, and Deputy Administrator for NASA.

A native of Washington, D.C., Gregory attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in military engineering. He earned his wings after helicopter school, flew in Vietnam, transitioned to fighter aircraft, attended the Navy Test Pilot School, and then conducted testing as an engineering test pilot for both the Air Force and NASA. He received a master’s degree in information systems from George Washington University.

During his time in the Air Force, Gregory logged approximately 7,000 hours in more than 50 types of aircraft as a helicopter, fighter and test pilot. He flew 550 combat rescue missions in Vietnam.

Older man in blue jacket (Col. Gregory) stands behind a podium on a stage pointing to a large powerpoint slide which features an image of him as a young man with his spaceflight crew on a Shuttle mission.

Col. Gregory shares photos of his time as an Astronaut while presenting at the K.G. Tan Auditorium.

In 1978, Gregory was chosen by NASA as a member of the first class of Space Shuttle astronauts. He became the first American with African lineage to pilot a spacecraft, the orbiter Challenger, on mission STS-51B. This flight was the second flight for the laboratory developed by the European Space Agency for scientific experiments on the space shuttle.

Four people stand smiling for a photo in front of a blue background that reads "Astronaut Scholarship Foundation." The people from left to right are Adam Crowley, Melissa Welshans, Col. Fred Gregory, and Jolynn Parker.

CFSA's team poses for a photo with Col. Gregory after his presentation

Gregory was also the first person of African lineage to command any space mission with the launch of STS-33 in 1989 on the orbiter Discovery. He then commanded STS-44 on Atlantis, which in addition to deploying a Department of Defense satellite, DPS 15, also conducted extensive studies to evaluate medical countermeasures to long-duration space flight.

Gregory also assumed the roles of associate administrator for safety and mission assurance and associate administrator for space flight before becoming NASA’s deputy administrator. As the leader of the agency’s human space flight program and as deputy administrator, one of his central goals was to have humans leave low Earth orbit on a journey in which Mars was the first step.

Founded by the Mercury 7 astronauts, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships to students in their junior or senior year who are pursuing studies in STEM and who plan to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degree. Nominees are selected based on their exemplary academic performance, ingenuity and unique aptitude for research. You can learn more about the program here.