James Lovell and Gene Kranz

September 13, 2011

James Lovell and Gene Kranz

Captain James Lovell
NASA Legend and Apollo 13 Commander

Captain James Lovell, Jr. was chosen in September 1962 for the space program following extensive experience as a naval aviator and test pilot. Lovell executed various commands in the Gemini Mission Program, including serving as backup pilot for the Gemini 4 flight, and pilot on the history-making Gemini 7 flight that saw the first rendezvous of two manned spacecraft in 1965. He was also the backup commander for the Gemini 9 flight, and in 1966 he commanded the Gemini 12 spacecraft to successfully conclude the Gemini Program.

At the close of the Gemini program, Lovell became command module pilot and navigator for the epic six-day journey on Apollo 8, humanity’s maiden voyage to the moon, during which he and his fellow crew were the first humans to leave the earth’s gravitational influence. He then was backup commander to Neil Armstrong for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. His fourth and final flight was on the perilous Apollo 13 mission in 1970. As spacecraft commander, he and his crew successfully modified their lunar module into an effective lifeboat when their cryogenic oxygen system failed. Their emergency activation and operation of the lunar module systems conserved both electrical power and water in sufficient supply to ensure their survival in space and their safe return to Earth.

In 1973, Lovell left the space program to join the Bay-Houston Towing Company. He became president and chief executive officer of Bay-Houston Towing in 1975 and then joined Fisk Telephone Systems as company president. The company was acquired by the Centel Corporation in 1980, and he became executive vice president. Today, he is president of Lovell Communications, a business devoted to disseminating information about the US space program.

Captain Lovell’s education prepared him for the change from explorer to businessperson. He attended the University of Wisconsin and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Southern California Aviation Safety School, and the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. He has also received honorary doctorates from Blackburn University, Mary Hardin-Baylor College, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Rockhurst College, Susquehanna University, Washington & Jefferson College, Western Michigan University, and William Patterson College.

He has garnered an impressive share of honors, including the Harmon, Collier, and Goddard Aerospace Trophies; the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the French Legion of Honor; NASA Distinguished and Exceptional Service Medals; the Navy Distinguished Service Medal; two Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses; and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. He is also a fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

In 1994, Lovell and Jeff Kluger wrote Lost Moon, the story of the courageous mission of Apollo 13. In 2000, the book was re-released as Apollo 13: Anniversary Edition to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. In 1995, the film version of the best-seller, Apollo 13, was released to rave reviews. Lovell also appeared in several segments of Tom Hanks’s From the Earth to the Moon, the acclaimed HBO documentary miniseries that aired in the spring of 1998.

Harkening back to the incredible early days of space exploration and the Apollo program, Lovell applies the “time when we did bold things in space to achieve leadership” to the goals and ambitions of any organization, proving that even during challenging times, innovation and new heights of leadership can be attained.  

Gene Kranz

NASA Flight Control Director and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

Mr. Kranz was born on August 17, 1933, in Toledo, Ohio, and received his BS degree in aeronautical engineering from Parks College of Saint Louis University in 1954.

He was commissioned in the US Air Force in 1954, and flew high-performance jet fighter aircraft, including the F-80, F-86, and the F-100. In 1958, he worked as a flight test engineer at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, for McDonnell Aircraft, developing the Quail Decoy Missile for the B-47 and B-52 aircraft. He was discharged from the Air Force Reserve as a captain in 1972.

In 1960, Mr. Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley, Virginia, and was assigned as assistant flight director for Project Mercury. He assumed flight director duties for all Project Gemini Missions, and was the branch chief for Flight Control Operations.
Mr. Kranz was selected as division chief for Flight Control in 1968, and continued his duties as flight director for the Apollo Program. He was the flight director for many Apollo missions, including the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and he led the "Tiger Team" for the successful return of the Apollo 13 crew.

He performed as both a flight director and flight operations director for the Skylab Program, and, at its conclusion, was assigned as deputy director of flight operations with responsibility for space flight planning, training and mission operations, aircraft operations, and astronaut operations.

In 1983, Mr. Kranz was assigned as director of Mission Operations, with responsibilities for all aspects of mission design, testing, planning, training, and spaceflight operations. He was also responsible for the design, development, maintenance, and operations of all related mission facilities, as well as the preparation of the Shuttle flight software. In this capacity, he was responsible for over 6000 employees, and an annual budget of approximately $750 million.

Mr. Kranz retired from NASA in March 1994 after 37 years of federal service. His current activities include consulting and motivational speaking to professional, civic, and youth groups. He is also a flight engineer on a B-17 "Flying Fortress," performing at airs hows throughout the United States. Since retirement from NASA, he has also built an aerobatic biplane.

Mr. Kranz was a co-recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Nixon for the Apollo 13 mission, and was designated a Distinguished Member of the Senior Executive Service by President Reagan.

Mr. Kranz was the author of the “Spaceflight” section of the 1984 and 1988 editions of the World Book Encyclopedia.

He is a New York Times best selling author. His book, Failure Is Not An Option (2000), chronicles his work in Mission Control, from Project Mercury through Apollo 13 and beyond. The book was selected by The History Channel as the basis for a documentary program on Mission Control. It was broadcast as a two-hour special in August 2003.

Mr. Kranz is married to the former Marta I. Cadena of Eagle Pass, Texas. They are the parents of six children.

His special honors include:

  • NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award, 2006.
  • Honorary doctor of engineering degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, 1996.
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: Lawrence Sperry Award, 1967; Theodore Von Karman lectureship, 1994.
  • American Astronautical Society: AAS Fellow, 1982; Spaceflight Award,1987.
  • The National Space Club: Astronautics Engineer of the Year Award, 1992.
  • Downtown Jaycees of Washington, DC: Arthur S. Fleming Award (Named one of ten outstanding young men in government service), 1970.
  • Saint Louis University: Alumni Merit Award, 1968; Founders Award, 1993.
  • North Galveston County Jaycees: Robert R. Gilruth Award, 1988.
  • Recipient of the 1995 History of Aviation Award for the "Safe return of the Apollo 13 Crew.”
  • Louis Bauer Lecturer, Aerospace Medical Association, 2000.
  • Selected for “2004 Gathering of Eagles” honoring aerospace and aviation pioneers at the Air Force Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

NASA Honors:

  • Distinguished Service Medal: 1970, 1982, and 1988.
  • Outstanding Leadership Medal: 1973, 1993.
  • Exceptional Service Medal: 1969 and 1970.
  • SES Meritorious Executive: 1980, 1985 and 1992.




purpose | non-profit partners | tickets | media sponsors | past seasons | theatre info/maps
Lesher Speaker Series 2007-2019