Springfield Public Schools Hall of Fame 2012

Meet the inspiring men and women who have been named to the Springfield Public Schools Hall of Fame for 2012.

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It’s time to meet the three new 2012 inductees into the Springfield Public Schools Hall of Fame. This is the third year SPS has pinpointed a few of its graduates for the honor. It all started with nominations of past graduates who demonstrate public service and have received accolades in the community. These nominees must have a strong belief in the value of education. 

The school district narrowed this year’s pool of nominees, and those chosen were passed on to a committee of community members who made the final decision on which three men and women would be newly inducted into the Hall of Fame. Read on to meet the winners: Charles Armstrong, Betty Cole Dukert and Dr. Stewart Fulbright. 

 

Watching men set foot on the moon was inspiring for young Charles Armstrong, to say the least. For the past 33 years, Kickapoo High School graduate Armstrong has played a central role in numerous projects at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. 

Before stepping into the rocket scientist role, Armstrong surrounded himself in math and science, beginning his career at Southwest Missouri State University while a senior at Kickapoo High School. 

Looking back on his high school glory days, memories of farm parties, marching band morning practices and, of course, his crush on the beauty queen cheerleader all come to mind. As the president of the science and math clubs his senior year, Armstrong looked up to a number of teachers, including geometry teacher Bill O’Neal and science instructors J.W. Mount, Horner Askins and Jose Flores. 

With his roots already planted at SMSU, Armstrong graduated in 1979, boasting bachelor’s degrees in math and physics. With an astronomy minor to boot, Armstrong immediately found himself interning for NASA. “Here I was a snot-nosed kid just out of college, and I was writing procedures they would use in space,” Armstrong said.

Today, Armstrong serves as a medium between universities and NASA in Houston, Texas, while working on the integration of Project Orion, an operation expected to launch humans farther into space than ever before. The Springfield Public Schools alum has received numerous awards for his work, including a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and a Silver Snoopy, which recognizes outstanding individual performance. 

Eugene Kranz, a retired NASA flight director and major mentor to Armstrong, describes the professional problem-solver as committed, imaginative and hard-working. “He was stimulus,” Kranz says. “He would always find the way to get something going, he was very good at socializing and everyone enjoyed working with him. He was a delightful young man.”

When he’s not busy working to explore the final frontier, Armstrong can be found hiking, camping, snowboarding or working toward a black belt in kuk sool won.

With a mile-long list of job experience, Armstrong has done pretty much everything except fly a mission for NASA. The husband to Karen and father of Victoria and Nicholas attributes his success to the consistent support of his parents and an extensive math and science education.

“It’s not as much about math and science, but learning how to work through a problem,” Armstrong says, encouraging students to invest in their education. 

Dedicated to exploration, Armstrong’s ultimate hope is to have people understand the economic value of the space program. “I want to do something that can clarify that for everybody,” Armstrong says. “I want to be in the fight.”—D.D.

Armstrong’s passion for math and science got him featured in the News-Leader when he was in high school (far left). Known by his peers as a “creative problem solver,” Armstrong has spent years helping NASA further its programs (above). Armstrong receives the Silver Snoopy award, one of many accolades he has received over the years (left).

 

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