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November 17, 2018

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An Astronaut and an Anchor: Mae Jemison and Linda Lorelle

Mae: Linda and I met in the last century as freshmen at Stanford University. We did not know each other, but we were both young African American women from Chicago, outgoing, and we loved physical activities.

Linda: Mae breaks the stereotypical view that most people have of extremely smart women. Yes, she is brilliant and I would put her intellect up against any woman or man; but she is also fun, funny, down to earth, compassionate, artistic, and beautiful, inside and out. She is most definitely not a nerd.

Mae: We both loved dancing. Dance has been very important in our friendship and has served to strengthen it over the years. I admire Linda for her incredible dance skill, interpretation, and energy. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they move, and if dance is your avocation, even more of your character and aspirations are revealed.

Linda: My favorite college memories are of the two of us choreographing dance performances. How many astronauts do you know who can tear it up on the dance floor and then break down exactly what it would take to create artificial limbs for someone who would like to dance, but can’t because they have no legs? I am in awe of her.

Mae: I respect Linda because she had the nerve to pursue professional dance after graduating from college with honors in Italian and psychology. I wanted to go to New York to pursue a career as a professional dancer, but after much discussion with my mother, I went to medical school instead. Dance is something Linda and I continue to share—if no one else can appreciate why movement brings such a smile and a connection—all we have to do is look at each other. At Linda’s wedding we danced—hard enough to sweat— into the night.

Linda: Mae is one of the most gifted speakers I have ever heard. She has the ability to take you where she wants you to go, yet all the while you don’t realize you’re being led there. Once you get there, you have that “Aha!” moment. She always does it with humor.

Mae: Linda’s outlook on life is confident, enthusiastic, strong-willed, and energetic. She goes for what she wants. And if it does or does not work out, she is ready for the next episode. While some of my friends might have been skeptical about my career path, Linda was always supportive. Talking to her about going to Africa as a doctor or becoming an astronaut or leaving NASA did not faze her.

Linda: Our friendship has strengthened through the years because we accept each other as we are and continue to support each other no matter what. There were times when we didn’t see each other for quite a while as our lives took us in different directions. But each time we come back together, we pick up where we left off. When I got my TV job in Houston while Mae was training at the Johnson Space Center, it was a dream come true. It was meant to be for me, her best friend, to cover her historic launch. It was extremely emotional for me—I cried during liftoff—and one of the highlights of my career.

Mae: Linda is a bit sappy, and it’s wonderful. Linda is not constrained about displaying warm fuzzy emotions. It is a quality that I have come to appreciate more and more as I have gotten older and realized how rare and beneficial genuine positive emotions are in this world. From her undying love for “Teddy,” her childhood teddy bear she brought to college with her, to her teary eyed news coverage of my space shuttle launch, to her compassionate delivery of scholarships through her charity for students who would normally not get to go to college, Linda makes us all take a deep breath and smile.

Linda: I have so much respect for what Mae has accomplished and continues to accomplish professionally, but I have just as much admiration for the kind of person she is. She is as real as they come. Our friendship has endured because I know I can be my true self with her, warts and all, and that she won’t judge me. She’ll just be there, and that’s a true friend.

Dr. Mae Jemison blasted into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992, becoming the first African American woman in space. Today, the Jemison Group focuses on the integration of science and technology into everyday lives. Linda Lorelle is an Emmy Award-winning anchor in Houston whose reports have not only touched lives but saved them. The Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund provides major college scholarships to Houston-area students.


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