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1996 Distinguished Graduate Award

Frank Borman

As a distinguished Air Force officer and dean of American astronauts, as an intrepid space pioneer and goodwill ambassador for two presidents, and as commander of two crucial National Aeronautics and Space Administration missions that vaulted the United States to the forefront of world space achievement, Frank Borman has served his country with distinction, resolute courage, and integrity over a career spanning 46 years.

Born in Gary, Indiana in 1928, Frank Borman grew up in Tucson, Arizona where he learned to fly at age 15. He graduated from the Military Academy in1950, and was commissioned in the Air Force. For the next several years, Colonel Borman was an operational pilot and instructor in various squadrons in the United States.

In 1957, Colonel Borman was awarded the degree of Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology and was then assigned to the Department of Mechanics at West Point, where he taught thermodynamics and fluid mechanics as an assistant professor until 1960.

In 1962, Colonel Borman was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for astronaut training.

In 1964, he was assigned to the Gemini 4 mission as backup commander. A year later, he served as the Command Pilot for the Gemini 7 mission. This mission established a number of "firsts." It was the longest duration space flight on record - fourteen days. It was also the first rendezvous of two manned, maneuverable spacecraft, and it clearly defined man's capability to endure the effects of zero gravity and close confinement in a hostile environment. Gemini 7 also proved to be a major stepping stone in NASA's plans to recover the lunar lander after the Apollo program placed man on the moon. The results of the test proved humans could survive these conditions, but it took the steadfast resolution and mental toughness of Colonel Borman to assure the successful completion of his grueling experiment. His display of leadership and courage earned Colonel Borman a leading role as an astronaut and as manager of the visionary Apollo program.

In 1966, President Johnson sent Colonel Borman on a trip through eight Far Eastern nations as a goodwill ambassador. A year later, he was appointed to the committee that investigated the tragic Apollo I fire that claimed the lives of three astronauts.

The Apollo program, and in fact the entire space program, was in jeopardy following the accident. After completion of the investigation, Colonel Borman was made Apollo Program Resident Manager, and he headed the team that reengineered the Apollo spacecraft. He also played a major role in restoring faith in the Apollo program and morale in his fellow astronauts. In the words of Christopher Kraft, Director of Apollo Flight Operations, "…his own willingness to participate in this highly visible position was paramount to the future success of Apollo."

In December 1968, Colonel Borman became the commander of Apollo 8, the first spacecraft to leave the Earth's gravitational field and circle the moon. This highly dangerous six-day mission gave us our first close-up look at the lunar surface and of the back side of the moon. It also confirmed the technology which permitted succeeding crews to land on the moon.

In 1970, Colonel Borman joined Eastern Airlines as Senior Vice-President for Operations, a position he held until 1974. In the summer of 1974, President Nixon asked Colonel Borman to undertake a mission to draw attention to the plight of our Prisoners of War in North Vietnam. He traveled to fifteen countries, from the Soviet Union to Sweden, India, and Laos. The result of this trip was better treatment for our POW's and the Secretary of State commended Colonel Borman for his highly effective presentations to foreign leaders.

Taking charge of an airline with deep financial troubles, Colonel Borman, through brilliant, imaginative, and tireless leadership, was able to make the many improvements that led to the four most profitable years in the company's history. He left Eastern Airlines in 1986, and in 1988 he joined Patlex Corporation, where he is now Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President.

Earlier, in 1976, Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffman asked Frank Borman to head a "Blue Ribbon" commission to look into all aspects of the honor code at West Point.

Despite tremendous pressure, the Borman Commission created a report that was a testimony to Frank Borman's patience, leadership, and strong determination to produce an unprejudiced and thoroughly honest document. In the words of Mr. Hoffman, "…with singular integrity and openness, he served the best interests of the Academy, the Army, and the nation." Of the 22 major recommendations made by the Borman Commission, 19 were implemented by Department of the Army, and the other three were referred for further study.

Colonel Borman was presented with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by the President of the United States. The Air Force awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He has also been awarded the Harmon International Aviation Trophy, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, as well as many other awards, trophies, and honorary degrees.

The Czechoslovakian Academy of Science presented Colonel Borman with their Gold Medal for Achievement, and in 1990, he was inducted into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame; and in 1993 he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Throughout a lifetime of service to his country, Colonel Borman has made invaluable and lasting contributions to the security of the United States. His dauntless courage as an acknowledged leader of America's astronauts and his unswerving integrity in missions of critical national importance epitomize the words of the West Point motto: "Duty, Honor, Country." Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes pride in presenting the 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award to Frank Borman, USMA Class of 1950.