Mobile, Ala. -- Astronaut and Murphy High School graduate Kay Hire attended a tree planting ceremony on Monday, Feb. 24, with Dr. Bernard Eichold who, along with his wife, Carolyn, recently donated eight oak trees to the Murphy campus. Also at the planting ceremony was Mobile County Public School System Superintendent Martha Peek, along with representatives of the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners, the Murphy High School Alumni Association and the Murphy High student body.
The ceremony took place on the north side of the Murphy campus, near the Carlen House Museum. Murphy lost several of its trademark oaks in a Christmas Day tornado in 2012. Plans call for campus renovations to be complete by 2016, school officials said.
Dr. Eichold, who serves as health officer for the Mobile County Health Department, has a long family history of planting trees across coastal Alabama, including oaks on the campus of the University of Mobile. A plaque at Murphy commemorates Eichold’s grandfather planting a tree every Arbor Day on the campus for much of the first half of the 20th century.
Dr. Eichold was instrumental in bringing Hire to Mobile this week, where she made scheduled appearances to speak to students and faculty at Murphy High School and a parochial school she attended as a child. Hire is scheduled to deliver a Mardi Gras flag flown in space to the Mobile City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, where council members will declare it “Kay Hire Day” in Mobile.
Hire has logged 711 hours in space in missions aboard the shuttles Columbia and Endeavor. After graduating from Murphy, Hire attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where she received a bachelor of science in 1981. She was commissioned as a Naval Officer upon graduation and earned her Naval Flight Officer Wings in 1982. She flew worldwide oceanographic research missions to 25 countries and taught airborne Naval operations to more than 600 students. In 1993, she became the first female in the U.S. military to be assigned to a combat aircrew as a Naval Reserve Officer. She was later recalled to active duty supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as a member of the U.S. Naval Central Command Staff.
Hire’s work with NASA began in 1989 at the Kennedy Space Center, where she served as an engineer. She processed Space Shuttles from landing through ground preparations and launch countdowns for more than 40 missions.