Chasing Space

November 10, 2017
Leland Melvin tells his story of perseverance and community at an event commemorating the Jepson School's 25th anniversary

To date, only one person drafted into the NFL has ever traveled into space.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances, a new memoir by University of Richmond alumnus Leland Melvin, tells the former wide receiver and NASA astronaut’s uncommon story. Melvin, who served as the 2008–09 Jepson School leader-in-residence, shared his experiences at a special book discussion and signing hosted by the Jepson School of Leadership Studies as part of its 25th anniversary year celebration.

Drawing from events in his own life, Melvin spoke about the effect of perseverance, community, and grace. He emphasized the importance of coming together and noted that it is vital for leaders “to use language that does not divide.” Melvin, who has logged over 565 hours in space, observed that you cannot see borders and divisions while orbiting Earth.

“As you look out the window, and you see our planet, our blue marble, you get this thing called the orbital effect or orbital perspective. Your mind cognitively shifts,” reflected Melvin.

University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher introduced Melvin at the event, which kicked off the University’s homecoming weekend. Richmond alumni and administrators, as well as members of the surrounding community and schools, came out to hear Melvin’s talk in the Modlin Center for the Arts Camp Concert Hall.

Jepson School Dean Sandra J. Peart pointed to Melvin’s leadership as she welcomed audience members to the event.

“UR alumnus, trustee, and former Jepson School leader-in-residence Leland Melvin models the leadership traits we seek to instill in Jepson School students,” said Peart. “When we heard that he would publish a memoir, we immediately knew that we wanted to host Leland for a discussion of his book at his alma mater. We’re very excited to have him with us tonight as part of our yearlong anniversary celebration.”

Now that he is retired from space travel, Melvin’s new mission is encouraging others to aim high and reach for their goals. Melvin, who co-chaired the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Task Force committee, talked about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education and offered words of encouragement to the children who came forward with questions during the question-and-answer portion of the evening.

In remarking on the Jepson School’s anniversary, he said, “To the Jepson School, I can’t wait to be here for the next 25 years, and next 25 after that…to see what you produce in leaders in this country to make a difference.”