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2011.02.08 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Virgin Galactic CEO to Present Durham Lecture, Receive Shea Award Feb. 16

Omaha - George Whitesides, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, will be honored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Aviation Institute and the NASA Nebraska Space Grant on Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Whitesides will receive the William F. Shea Award for his contributions to aerospace and present the 2011 Charles W. Durham Distinguished Guest Lecture.

Virgin Galactic, the first U.S.-based and regulated space tourism company, will soon offer space flights to civilians who receive extensive training. Whitesides is the company’s first CEO.

The event will be held at the Thompson Alumni Center, 6705 Dodge St., on the UNO campus. A reception is planned for 6:45 p.m., with Whitesides’ lecture following at 7:15 p.m. Both the reception and lecture are free and open to the public.

“George Whitesides and Virgin Galactic represent the future of aerospace,” said Scott Tarry, Aviation Institute director. “Mr. Whitesides has been a strong advocate for space exploration and improved education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. He has brought that passion to his new position at Virgin Galactic and we’re thrilled that he is coming to UNO to share some of his experiences and his vision with the Omaha community.”

Whitesides joined Virgin Galactic in 2010 from his recent role as chief of staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) where he was responsible for working to implement the NASA Administrator’s policy agenda and staffing decisions.

Prior to his role as NASA chief of staff, Whitesides served as a member of the NASA Presidential Transition Team, executive director of the National Space Society, and chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Whitesides’ earlier career experience in the aerospace industry took place at Orbital Sciences Corporation, Blastoff Corporation and the Zero Gravity Corporation.

A licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach, Whitesides is a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar.

The Charles W. Durham Distinguished Guest Lecture Series was established at the UNO Aviation Institute to honor the late Charles W. Durham for his inspiration and financial support as co-founder of the institute. The Aviation Institute holds the Durham Lecture each year and presents the guest lecturer with the William F. Shea Award for Distinguished Contributions to Aviation. The award is given in honor of the Aviation Institute’s founding director, William F. Shea, and is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to aviation, both locally and nationally.

For more information or to RSVP for the free lecture, call the UNO Aviation Institute: (402) 554-2986.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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