Welcome to Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Queen's University

Jerry C. High Eagle

Jerry High Eagle remembers clearly the first thing that made him want to study science.

“I was always curious.  I loved to put puzzles together and build things when I was young.” Jerry heard about space exploration and satellites in the news and thought  “That is something out of the future.  I wanted to go there!”

His family was very supportive of his dreams.  He is the first member of his family to graduate from university.

When he was still a student, he was hired by NASA and joined the Moon program.  In 1969, when the Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed on the moon, Jerry was a flight controller in NASA’s Mission Control Centre in Houston Texas. Part of his job was making sure the rocket took off and landed safely.  He says it was the most exciting project he has ever worked on.

About a year later, Mr. High Eagle had his greatest professional challenge and achievement when he was a flight operations controller during the Apollo 13 mission.  Things went very wrong when an oxygen tank exploded, damaging the ship and leaving it without oxygen. The astronaut on board, Jim Lovell, famously radioed to the flight engineers “Houston, we have a problem…”

Jerry and his team had to figure out a way to use the moon’s gravitational pull to slingshot the astronauts back to Earth.  Jerry’s job was to calculate the return-to-Earth path, in order to bring the astronauts home safely.

For his role in the Apollo 13 mission, Jerry High Eagle was given the USA’s highest award for civilians, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Jerry continued to work for NASA, seeing how NASA’s experiments in space could benefit people on Earth.  He also worked on the development of the International Space Station.  Even though these jobs were very different from his first job as a flight controller, his engineering education prepared him for the challenges.

"Engineering fine-tuned my ability to think. With its knowledge and principles, I could apply information to anything. It gave me a better sense of confidence in myself. Engineers and scientists are doers. We are thinkers, and like to build things. We like to figure things out. We are educated to deal in facts and to be logical in our thinking, but we are people too! To be a good scientist or engineer is to be a good human with care and concern for both people and the environment.”

Mr. High Eagle believes education, and particularly science and engineering education, are essential for the future of Aboriginal peoples.

"We cannot ignore that the future of our people will clearly depend on the presence of well-trained, well-educated engineers and others in technical fields. Whatever we plan or do to meet the future needs of our people will not happen unless you make it happen.

We will be successful in our efforts to achieve a better tomorrow only if we have the will, the energy, and the desire to bring it about. Remember no person can be better than their own preparation. Without education, we cannot survive.

I challenge you who are proud of your family, proud of your heritage, to achieve an education that will make the future point to you with even more pride than the present. I challenge you to accomplish more than those of us who have gone before you; I challenge you to take more responsibility, to do something."

Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada

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