Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Women's Club dedicates tree in memory of Voss

Date: 10/22/2012

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM — On Oct. 19, the Wilbraham Women's Club (WWC) dedicated a memorial tree to Minnechaug Regional High School (MRHS) in honor of Janice Voss, a graduate of the school who went on to fly in space.

Voss, a member of the MRHS class of 1972, died in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 6 at the age of 55 after a battle with breast cancer.

Dottie Schwendenmann, who spearheaded the effort, told Reminder Publications that they have dedicated several trees in the past since beginning the practice in 1982, but made this special presentation to the school to help educate students on Voss' life and her motto that she always ended speaking engagements with children with — "Follow your dreams."

"We wanted to give the students a face with the name," Schwendenmann said. "We wanted to do something that would make students aware of her and allow them to do their own research to learn more about who she was."

The low-key ceremony was attended by members of the Voss family, members of the WWC and representatives from each class at MRHS.

During her professional career, Voss served on five shuttle missions from 1993 through 2000. She orbited the Earth 779 times, traveling 18.8 million miles in more than 49 days in space.

"A lifelong dancer, she may have been the first woman to dance in space," a press release from the Voss family provided to Reminder Publications stated.

Voss began her career at NASA shortly after her early graduation from Minnechaug as a co-op at the Johnson Space Center from 1973 to 1975 while a student at Purdue University. She earned her master's degree in electrical engineering in 1977 and later a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics in 1987 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She became an astronaut in 1991.

In addition flying in five manned space missions, she also served as the science director for the Kepler mission, whose objective is to seek out planets like Earth in other solar systems, and also worked in NASA's astronaut office in Houston as a payloads lead.

Personally, family described Voss as a kind and caring person.

"Janice was known for her warm smile, her enthusiasm and her humility," the Voss's press release said.

Previously, Voss was posthumously honored by Purdue, from which both of her parents also graduated, and by NASA, where a tree was planted in her honor at the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston.

The Voss family was invited to speak with Reminder Publications, but a response was not received as of press time.