Dr. June Scobee Rodgers Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

As we celebrate women during the month of May, the story of Dr. June Scobee Rodgers is an illustration of how women can inspire their friends, colleagues, and families to take that extra step to live their lives with an extra spark.

June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Richard “Dick” Scobee, “turned tragedy into triumph” after the 1986 Challenger accident. Immediately following the tragedy, June channeled grief into action and led the Challenger families, along with others, to create a living tribute to their loved ones

June’s captivating spirit and love for her family and friends are motivators for everyone she meets. She grew up in childhood poverty, homelessness, and family dysfunction that would have lead most into despair. But not June. Instead, as a young child, June became inspired after reading a copy of “Think and Grow Rich” by Norman Vincent Peale. As a result, she developed her own plan using the ABC’s as a guide for positive thinking. “A” was for Attitude – Accepting problems as challenges.  “B” was for “Believe in myself and God,” and “C” was for commitment. Have the courage to create a positive out of a negative. Years later, she added “D” for Dreams are your vision.

June will unabashedly tell you that the day at age sixteen she met Dick Scobee, a handsome airman who wanted to be a pilot, was the day that changed her life forever. They enjoyed 26 years of love and life until the heartbreaking day in January 1986 the Challenger accident took place, marking the first time American astronauts were lost in space flight.

During the Challenger launch preparations, June had the opportunity to work with fellow educator Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space. After the accident, June was committed to continuing McAuliffe’s Space Science Education Initiatives for students. That commitment and a vision of a lasting tribute to the crew that would not only benefit the nation and the world immediately but would have a lasting impact for decades to come. As a result of that vision, June accepted a challenge that would forever change her life and that of more than five million children across the globe.

As a result of her ongoing commitment to educating the dream makers of the future, the concept of the Challenger Centers was born. Since the opening of the first Challenger Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1995, the program has grown to over 50 Challenger Centers across the country.

(As a point of interest, it was a fellow Chattanoogan, Congresswoman Marilyn Lloyd, who encouraged June to build the first Challenger Center in Chattanooga.)

June is a mother of two and is happily married to retired Lt. General Don Rodgers. For the last 25 years, June and retired Lt. General Rodgers has lived in Chattanooga. She is a lifelong educator, author, speaker, and an inspiration to everyone she meets. June holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, a Masters Degree from Chapman College and a Bachelors of Science Degree from Charleston Southern University. Also, June is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of Leicester, England.

She loves to work in her front yard “patch of a flower garden” and loves the outdoors, a reason she cites as instrumental in deciding to move to Chattanooga in the first place. Traveling the world speaking to educators and space program leaders, she enjoys sharing their excitement for the future of the space program. June’s advice to everyone is, “don’t take yourself too seriously and laugh at yourself frequently,” an attribute she learned later in life.

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