HUNTINGTON — Marshall University alumni Bob Lang and Gary Ray will serve as co-grand marshals for Marshall’s 2019 homecoming.
Lang and Ray are retired NASA engineers who have both enjoyed distinguished careers in the field, heading up major programs from the Apollo missions to the space shuttle program. They will serve in the role at the annual homecoming parade and several activities throughout the week.
They will head a space-themed homecoming, Marshall and Beyond, celebrating the past, present and future of Marshall. The theme will also accompany dozens of activities throughout the week including the annual parade, bonfire, Picnic on the Plaza, Homecoming Stampede 5K, alumni tailgate, Herd Madness and much more.
As the nation recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, the university is excited to bring back two exceptional sons of Marshall who helped shape the exploration of our solar system with the design and oversight of the very machines that would take astronauts into the great unknown.
“We are so very excited to welcome Gary and Bob back to campus to serve as grand marshals for all of our homecoming week festivities,” said Matt Hayes, executive director of Alumni Relations. “These two incredible individuals have achieved amazing feats during their illustrious careers while representing Marshall University as tremendous ambassadors. We couldn’t think of two more fitting individuals to represent our university during this historic homecoming as we celebrate the upward trajectory of Marshall. We encourage everyone visiting campus during homecoming to take the time to meet these two outstanding sons of Marshall.”
Lang began his aerospace career right after graduation from Marshall University in 1967 where he became the NASA lead engineer for the Lunar Module Environmental Control System following the completion of the lunar program. He would then support the Skylab program during the early design phases of the space shuttle.
He later went on to spearhead many projects surrounding the Space Shuttle program, including becoming director of safety and reliability at the Kennedy Space Center following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. In 1990, Lang became director of shuttle vehicle engineering and the chief NASA engineer at the Kennedy Space Center, overseeing the engineering management and direction of integration and maintenance for all space shuttle operations for 42 shuttle flights.
Lang retired from NASA in 1996 after 29 years of government service to work with the United Space Alliance where he continued to support the shuttle program until his final retirement in 2011. During his tenure, Lang received two Exceptional Service Medals, an Outstanding Leadership Medal and the Presidential rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service from NASA. Lang also received the Marshall University Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, in 2018.
“For someone who does not like attention drawn to himself, I am incredibly humbled and honored to have been chosen to be a co-grand marshal for the 2019 Marshall University homecoming celebration,” Lang said. “I have always been proud to wave the Marshall green and will do so with great honor and humility. I am so very proud to have graduated from Marshall fully prepared for an exciting career with NASA. I was able to work the lunar landings of the Apollo program through to the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011.
“I look forward to a fun-filled week of events and spending time with old friends I haven’t seen in a long time. Go Herd!”
Wayne County native Gary Ray began his illustrious career with an engineering degree from Marshall University. Soon after, Ray relocated to Florida, beginning his NASA career at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in the late 1970s as a propulsion engineer on Project Apollo. His work on this critical system between 1968 and 1974 played an essential role in landing 12 astronauts on the moon, helping another 15 orbit the moon, and launching the first American space station, Skylab.
As the Apollo program came to an end, NASA began converting facilities – and people – to prepare for the brand new Space Shuttle program, of which Ray was an important cog in the wheel. As the lead project engineer, Ray was responsible for the design and modifications to the launch pads, assembly and processing buildings, and helped launch 135 space shuttle missions between 1981 and 2011. For his service, Ray received two NASA Exceptional Medals, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and the National Space Club Lifetime Achievement Award. Ray retired from NASA in 2012. Ray was also recognized by Marshall University’s College of Information, Technology and Engineering in 2018 with their prestigious Award of Distinction.
“My wife and I are from the Huntington area. When we make our visits to the area, we call it coming home. While here, we get to visit friends and family, take in our favorite sites and usually walk the Marshall campus. But this ‘coming home’ will have a level of excitement that will be beyond belief,” Ray said. “It is hard to imagine that I will have an integral part as a co-grand marshal of one of the school’s biggest annual events. To be a part of these wonderful events will rank right up there as one of the most memorable events that I have ever been a part of. I am looking so forward to returning to campus to see some faculty, staff and fellow alumni. I cannot wait!”
As part of the homecoming festivities held on campus each fall, the grand marshals have the special honor of leading the parade as it travels from downtown Huntington through the campus. The parade will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24.
Lang and Ray will also participate in other major events on and around the Huntington campus, including week-long campus and student events, the homecoming parade, alumni events and the homecoming football game against Western Kentucky University at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. The university will also be making a “historic” announcement during the first half of the homecoming game.
More information on this year’s homecoming events can be found at www.herdalum.com/homecoming19.