Judith Resnik, a pioneer of sorts who will become America's second woman in space next May, returned to the University of Maryland yesterday to pay tribute to a woman she called a real pioneer--Adele H. Stamp, the university's first dean of women.
Taking time from her training schedule for the 12th space shuttle mission, Resnik, 34, was the featured speaker at a ceremony on the College Park campus, renaming the student union for Stamp, who served as dean from 1922 to 1960.
"Believing that women could be successful as individuals of intelligence and capability, Dean Stamp dramatically touched and enriched the lives of literally thousands," said Resnik, who received a doctorate in electrical engineering from the university in 1977.
For her own part, Resnik is reluctant to appear in the role of a women's rights advocate or model. She prefers, instead, to lead by example.
"I've been the only woman in my profession and education for years. It is not a new experience," Resnik said.
"It is important for women to recognize that we cannot stand alone in the limelight as we one by one penetrate areas new to us. True, we must continue forward with our endeavors and firsts, and broaden our horizons at every opportunity. But firsts are only the means to the end of full equality, not the end itself," Resnik said.
With a soft but firm voice and the serious demeanor of an engineer and scientist, Resnik makes every attempt to play down her accomplishments as an individual, stressing instead her role as just one member of the NASA team.
"I am just pleased to have a flight assignment. I feel that I am very fortunate to be any woman in space, any person in space," she said.
"It's challenging, diversified . . . the best job in the world," Resnik said.
A NASA mission specialist, Resnik's job on the first flight of the shuttle Discovery next May will be to help deploy a new satellite that will test the way proteins separate in zero gravity--experiments that scientists hope will lead to the development of new drugs.
Although her goal now is to fly on as many shuttle missions as possible and to spend the remainder of her career at the space agency, Resnik said being an astronaut was not a lifelong goal but more of an accident.
"I was finishing my graduate work just about the time NASA began recruiting women," she said.
"I was just in the right place at the right time and I'll stay as long as they'll have me."