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Barbara Morgan Receives First Idaho Medal of Achievement

By: Sherry Squires   Published 2:39 pm / January 9, 2017

Photo of Barbara Morgan on the Blue turfGovernor C.L. “Butch” Otter has presented the highest civilian honor the State of Idaho bestows to Idaho educator and former astronaut Barbara Morgan.

Morgan received the Idaho Medal of Achievement at the conclusion of Governor Otter’s State of the State address before a joint session of the Idaho Legislature. Also in attendance were state elected officials, Idaho Supreme Court justices and Idaho Court of Appeals judges.

“It is a great honor to live and work with the people of Idaho. This beautiful award gives me the opportunity to thank everyone,” Morgan said. “I want especially to thank the Idaho Medal of Achievement commissioners, our Idaho Governor Butch Otter, and the school teachers of Idaho, who are my inspiration.”

A former NASA astronaut, Morgan joined Boise State in 2008 as distinguished educator in residence less than one year after her historic mission to the International Space Station aboard the shuttle Endeavor. During her years at Boise State, she provided vision and leadership to K-12 STEM teachers throughout Idaho and acted as a mentor to science and engineering students across the university.

She also leveraged her considerable experience as a classroom teacher and astronaut to initiate and cultivate many opportunities for students both locally and nationally. She helped prepare eight Boise State undergraduate teams for NASA’s Microgravity University, supported the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars program for high school students and mentored participants in NASA’s Pre-Service Teacher Institutes for teaching majors, among others.

The Idaho Medal of Achievement was created by executive order in November 2015 to recognize individual Idahoans for their “exceptional, meritorious, and inspirational” service to the people of Idaho.

“It is uniquely fitting that the first recipient of Idaho’s highest civilian honor goes to a pioneering educator who brought the promise of space flight to our students from a classroom above the clouds,” Governor Otter said. “Her career as an educator and then an astronaut has inspired a generation of young people not only about the importance of science but how high you can go when you aspire to do great things.”

Morgan spent 24 years as an elementary school teacher and was the back-up to Christa McAuliffe, who was to be America’s first teacher in space. Following McAuliffe’s death in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Morgan became the first teacher-astronaut to travel to space aboard the shuttle Endeavor in 2007.

The four-member Idaho Medal of Achievement Commission unanimously included Morgan as one of the top three candidates submitted to Gov. Otter for his final consideration.

“We were highly impressed by the caliber of the candidates, which made the commission’s job of narrowing the field all the more challenging,” said former Idaho Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout, who led the Idaho Medal of Achievement Commission. “However, Barbara’s legacy as an educator and pioneer in her field made her candidacy emblematic of what this award was designed to honor.”

The Idaho Medal of Achievement is awarded annually to individuals – living or dead – who are nominated by the public. The Medal of Achievement Commission will advance the names of no more than five finalists annually for the Governor’s consideration.

The public is encouraged to go to the Governor’s website or contact the Governor’s Office by mail to nominate deserving individuals for the 2017 award, which will be presented at the end of the Governor’s 2018 State of the State address. The deadline for nominations for the 2017 award is March 31.

Besides Copple Trout, the Medal of Achievement Commission includes former Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Idaho Business for Education Chairman Skip Oppenheimer, and Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) board member Kirk Sullivan.

Coeur d’Alene-based Hecla Mining Co. provided the silver for the Idaho Medal of Achievement and is sponsoring the award.

“Hecla Mining Company is honored to be a part of this program by providing the silver for the award recognizing the distinguished recipient of the first Idaho Medal of Achievement, Barbara Morgan,” Hecla Chairman and CEO Phillips S. Baker said. “While it is given to a deserving individual, it represents the quality of all Idahoans.”

Each medallion is made of 99.9-percent fine silver and weighs 19.7 troy ounces. It features a relief carving of the Idaho State Capitol on the front and the Idaho State Seal on the back.