Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture: To Infinity and Beyond

Ethan Bachand ’22

Chief News Editor

On Tuesday, October 29th, Dr. Scott Parazynski delivered the 54th Annual Hanify-Howland Memorial lecture in Hogan Ballroom. Sharing his life experiences and expectations for the future, Dr. Parazynski gave a warm and well received presentation that lived up to the significance of the event.

The talk, which was originally named the Hanify Memorial Lecture, was established in 1965 to honor the Honorable Edward F. Hanify. Judge Hanify was a Holy Cross graduate in 1907 and served as a justice on the Superior Court until the day he died. The award’s name was modified in 1976 to include the name of Weston Howland, who established the lecture.

Prior to the event, Dr. Parazynski had the opportunity to interact with a select group of students for a seminar. Speaking about his experience with the group, Dr. Parazynski said, “You know I loved the curiosity… First off, I would say that I went around the room to understand who they were as well and they all have expansive views and majors that suggest they want to make a difference in the world. That really gave me hope and optimism for the future. Great, great questions with a sense of curiosity that is great to see.”

Photo by Kim Fetherston ’22.
Future astronauts pose with Dr. Parazynski.

A formal dinner followed the aforementioned seminar as well as a dinner reception. This would bridge the gap between the meeting with students and the formal talk scheduled at 8:00 PM. In an interview with The Spire prior to the event, Dr. Parazynski shared his thoughts on his experience at Holy Cross, saying “I’m just amazed at how beautiful it is. You know of course that New England is famous for its beauty and the leaves and so on. Being here today I am sort of reminded of Old New England or even like an old European city with the citadel on top of the hill. It’s really a beautiful campus.”

Co-Chairs of the Hanify-Howland Committee Spencer Caron ’20 and Rex Tayag ’21 started the talk by introducing the history of the award. After the brief statements and recognition of the Hanify family, Dr. Parazynski was introduced to give his talk, “The Opportunity and Obligation to Innovate.”

Dr. Parazynski covered a wide variety of subjects in his talk, one of which being the infamous spacewalk he took to repair a damaged part of the International Space Station. As he told it to The Spire: “My last mission, STS-120, involved five spacewalks. The last of which turned out to be just an epic. We had installed a large solar ray trust from the top of the space station and plugged it in at the very tip of the international space station. As the solar panels were being commanded to unfurl, they actually began to rip apart. This was a really critical situation … so people worked around the clock for 72 hours to come up with this amazing recovery, sending myself and Dough Wheelock on another spacewalk mission to the tip of the station.”

Photo by Kim Fetherston ’22.

He would continue to recount his story, saying “It took 45 minutes just to get out to the work site on this gangly robotic arm and work on a live, energized solar panel … Miraculously it all worked per plan. It was something we had never trained to do before, it had never been envisioned that it could even happen. But one of the amazing things about NASA is its capacity to take these impossible situations and find brilliant solutions for them.”

When asked how he would recommend students interested in following his footsteps, the CEO of Fluid Mechanics responded, “I think there has never been a more exciting time to set your sights for the stars. It’s not just going to be NASA in the future, but companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origins, Space X, Bigelow Airspace, many different private sector companies are going to be sending rockets and people up into space in the not so distant future. So the space economy is growing by leaps and bounds, and for engineers and scientists that want to get involved, this is a great time.”

While the lecture series has been going on for 54 years, and is sure to continue for many more, students and faculty alike were treated to a talk by Dr. Parazynski that they will never forget.

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