Musgrave ‘launched’ a quest for fulfillment
By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Region - Story Musgrave has never followed a traditional path. He attended St. Mark’s School where his innate desire to explore different places and his passion to seek adventure might have seemed at odds with the expectations of the prestigious school. Because he felt more inclined to experience life rather than read about it in books, and because at the all-boy-school he missed seeing women, children, and families, he left prior to graduation.
According to Musgrave, “Not graduating was the right thing to do. I just walked away. I departed.”
Exploring nature and the outside world was what fed Musgrave’s curiosity.
After leaving St. Mark’s in 1953, Musgrave hitchhiked and “bused” through the United States, eventually making his way to 38 states. He took odd jobs along the way to pay for the next stop of his adventure. Wherever fate took him, Musgrave had the unconditional support of his mother; his father, though, was none too pleased with his itinerant son.
After his travels, Musgrave enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Korea. He became an aircraft electrician and an engine mechanic. It was in the Marines that Musgrave earned his GED (General Educational Development). That was also the time when he started flying planes, accumulating 18,000 hours in over 160 aircraft over the next 55 years. He became an accomplished parachutist, accumulating more than 800 free falls.
Musgrave attended Syracuse University “on probation” – he did not have a great track record in school so he had to prove himself and keep up his grades. Even though he had a shaky educational start, he more than made up for it in later years. He received a B.S. in mathematics and statistics from Syracuse. Among his numerous other academic achievements: he received an MBA in operations analysis and computer programming from the University of California, Los Angeles; a B.A. in chemistry from Marietta College; and an M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. In addition to seven degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology, he has also been awarded 20 honorary doctorates.
Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967, one of just 11 people chosen from a pool of 4,000 applicants. He performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, was a pilot on an astronomy mission and conducted two classified DOD missions. He was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission and, on his last flight, he operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on the Columbia. Musgrave was an astronaut for over 30 years and flew on six spaceflights. In addition, he was a part-time trauma surgeon during his astronaut career.
Looking back on his unconventional life Musgrave said, “We have to have failures. If we do not, then we are not exploring and adventuring far enough. I have piles of dead-ends, but I have learned from them.”
Ever the philosopher, Musgrave describes life as a playing field. On this playing field, he said, we come to forks in the road. Here, decisions are made which eventually lead to another fork. Along the way, we must get off the comfortable path and explore the world and our natural surroundings.
Today, Musgrave operates a palm farm in Orlando, Fla., a production company in Sydney and a sculpture company in Burbank, Calif. He is also a landscape architect, a concept artist with Walt Disney Imagineering, an innovator with Applied Minds, Inc. and a professor of design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Story also performs multimedia presentations on topics such as vision, leadership, motivation, safety, quality, innovation, creativity, design, simplicity, beauty and ecology.
To top it all off, Musgrave is a poet of 300-plus poems about space.
“But I look upon my ultimate form as being a poetic prose. When you read it, it appears to be prose, but within the prose you have embedded the techniques of poetry. I look upon that as a really powerful way to communicate the experience of space.”
While Musgrave has accomplished much in life, there are still things he wishes he had done. Among them, that he had become a ski jumper, learned to play the pipe organ and visited massive sand dunes.
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