Alumni Corner

Richard Truly '59

Richard Truly ’59

Richard Truly ’59 has kept his feet on the ground and stayed in touch with many Brothers of Kappa Alpha Order. Before coming to Georgia Tech, Richard just assumed that he would join a fraternity because his father was in a fraternity, although at the time, Kappa Alpha Order was not on his mind. When Richard arrived at Georgia Tech, he met up with a good friend, Tom Gurley ’59, and together they went through the rush process.


They both found the Brothers at Kappa Alpha were very special. The people that Richard met during rush were the kind of people that he wanted to spend time with during college, so when the offer to join Kappa Alpha was presented, he jumped on it.


Richard was in the engineering program at Georgia Tech. He felt that graduating with an engineering degree during the 50s would have a huge impact on his life, and when he graduated, he felt that he could do anything. Not only could he do anything, but he did much more than most of us can imagine. And he found every job in his career incredible.


After graduation, Richard went to flight school and was stationed in a Navy fighter squadron on a carrier. He eventually entered test pilot school, from there was accepted into the astronaut program, and began a remarkable career.


Richard’s astronaut career included work in the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program and NASA’s Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, and the Space Shuttle programs. Some of the experiences that he found to be most exciting were piloting Columbia, the first space shuttle to be re-flown into space and commanding Challenger, the first night launch and landing mission of the Space Shuttle program.


One of Richard’s loves is flying and being able to fly in space was one of the most unusual things that anyone could ever do. And as a test pilot, making the first night landing of the space shuttle was amazing and one of the highlights of his career.


After his second shuttle flight, Richard left the astronaut program, went back to the Navy, and became the first commander of Naval Space Command. After the horrifying Challenger accident, Richard was called back to NASA as the Associate Administrator for Space Flight and led the accident investigation. He spearheaded the rebuilding of the Space Shuttle, including winning approval for the building of Endeavor to replace the lost Challenger.


Richard also served as NASA’s eighth Administrator under President George H.W. Bush. His career in aviation and space programs of the US Navy and NASA spanned 35 years. As a naval aviator, test pilot, and astronaut, Richard logged over 7,500 hours and made over 300 carrier landings.


After retiring from the Navy as a Vice Admiral with over 30 years of service, Richard returned to Georgia Tech as Vice President and Director of the Georgia Tech Research Institute.


Before officially retiring in 2005, Richard spent the last eight years of his career as the Director of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and as the Executive Vice President of Midwest Research Institute.


Richard has received numerous military decorations and awards from NASA. His military decorations include the Defense Distinguished and Superior Service Medals, two Legions of Merit, and the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross. His awards from NASA include two Distinguished Service Medals, the Outstanding Leadership Medal, the Exceptional Service Medal, and two Space Flight Medals. Richard was also awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Reagan in 1989.


Now Richard lives in the mountains of Colorado with his wife Colleen. Richard and Colleen have three children; Mike, Dan, and Lee, five grandchildren; Ashley, Courtney, Peter, Daniel, and Annie, and one great-grandson; Luke.


He now stays busy with his family and in his own community. Among other things, Richard serves on the board of the National Research Council Space Studies Board, as a trustee of Regis University, and on the Advisory Committee to the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees.


Richard is still good friends with many of the Brothers from his pledge class, and keeps in touch with them through email and when he travels back to Atlanta. One of Richard’s friends, John Rowe ’62, is instrumental in keeping Brothers in touch. He keeps up an address list for well over a hundred Brothers for a few years before and after Richard’s time.


As a Distinguished Alumnus of Kappa Alpha Order, Richard’s life is full of adventure and fun. His career encapsulated things that he loved to do. He worked hard and feels that he is very lucky to have led such an incredible life.

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