Remembering Alumnus Ellison Onizuka

Lt. Colonel Ellison Onizuka

This past January 28 marked the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger. This somber remembrance had special significance at the College because alumnus Ellison Onizuka was among the 7-member crew who died in that tragedy.

Raising the flag at sunrise. A color guard from CU-Boulder's Onizuka Squadron of the Arnold Air Society raises the flag in front of Regent Hall every January 28 to honor the memory of Ellison Onizuka and the six others killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded January 28, 1986.

"He was an excellent student," says Robert Culp, aerospace engineering professor and former chair of the department, who served as Onizuka's advisor and taught him orbital mechanics. "He was an extrovert and a natural leader in everything he did."

Dick Seebass, current chair and dean of the College at the time, remarks, "Ellison was the most fun, most able of the astronauts I have known. His loss was a singular one to the astronaut corps."

While at CU, Onizuka enrolled in a program that allowed him to earn his B.S. and M.S. degrees at the same time. He was also an active member of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and entered active duty in the Air Force following his graduation in 1969.

Onizuka was chosen for the astronaut program in 1978 and made his first space shuttle flight aboard Discovery in 1985.

A series of memorials took place on the Challenger anniversary. Members of the Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka Squadron of the Arnold Air Society, a professional service organization within the Air Force ROTC program at CU, held a sunrise ceremony in front of Regent Hall.The cadets then continued to the Challenger Memorial outside Fiske Planetarium where they re-dedicated the memorial as they do each year on the anniversary of the explosion. Finally, they laid a wreath and a flag at the Onizuka Memorial just west of the Engineering Center. "CU lost something very special when Ellison died." says Culp."He was very loyal to this university. He came back often to give lectures and to meet with students."