John Glenn giving a talk in Johnson Chapel,
May 22, 2005.
Photo by Samuel Masinter '04
2005 Honorary Degree Recipients
Doctor of Laws
John Herschel Glenn could be described, without exaggeration, as an authentic, all-American hero. Throughout his life, Glenn has always sought, found and risen to new challenges, bringing honor to his country and himself.
Born in 1921 in a small town in Ohio, he wooed and married his high school sweetheart, Annie Castor, a marriage that has lasted 62 years. Glenn left college to join the military in World War II, becoming a Marine pilot and flying 59 combat missions in the Pacific. He later flew 63 combat missions during the Korean War, many of them with baseball legend Ted Williams as his wingman.
In 1957, as a Marine test pilot, Glenn set a transcontinental speed record for the first flight to average supersonic speeds from Los Angeles to New York. In 1962, the entire country cheered when he became the first American to orbit the earth successfully as part of the NASA Mercury project. That flight—during which almost everything that could go wrong did—orbited Earth three times and splashed down without incident near the Bahamas.
Glenn’s subsequent career in business, as an executive with Royal Crown Cola, was always paralleled by an interest in politics. He took an active part in early environmental protection efforts in Ohio, and in 1968 he campaigned for his friend Robert Kennedy during his bid for the presidential nomination. In 1974, Glenn won a landslide election to the U.S. Senate, where he established a reputation for being a hard-working and knowledgeable problem solver. He tested the waters for a presidential nomination in 1983, but withdrew, to become the first four-term senator from Ohio, retiring in 1998.
But the call of space was still strong. In October of 1998, at age 77, Glenn joined the Space Shuttle Discovery mission as a payload specialist, spending nine days on board undergoing various experiments to study links between human aging and the negative symptoms of weightlessness.
Glenn has donated his papers and memorabilia to Ohio State University in conjunction with the formation at the university of the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy.