NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon and an award-winning artist, will be the featured guest at the 2011 installment of the Archie McDonald Speaker Series at Stephen F. Austin State University.
The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in the Grand Ballroom of the Baker Pattillo Student Center on the SFA campus. Reserve tickets will go on sale early next year.
"Alan Bean is a member of a most exclusive group – one of 12 people who have walked on the moon and captured the focus and imagination of the nation and the world during the apex of manned space exploration," Dr. Archie McDonald said. "Our speaker series is delighted to feature a fellow Texan who has viewed our world from a perspective few others have experienced."
Bean graduated from Paschal High School in Fort Worth in 1950 and received a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship to attend the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor's degree and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He was trained as a test pilot and, in 1963, was selected as a NASA astronaut.
He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, man's second lunar landing. In 1973, Bean again flew in space as commander of Skylab Mission II, a 59-day mission in which he traveled more than 24 million miles. He later served as backup spacecraft commander for the joint American-Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and as chief of operations and training and acting chief astronaut until the first flight of the space shuttle.
Bean began pursuing his interest in painting while still a test pilot in the Navy. Throughout his NASA career, he took art classes and honed his artistic skills at night and on weekends when he wasn't training for a mission. For the past 29 years, the former astronaut has worked full time as a professional artist. His work has evolved into a mixture of painting and sculpture, textured with lunar tools, sprinkled with bits of his Apollo 12 spacecraft and the emblems and flag from the spacesuit he wore on the moon.
When he retired from NASA, Bean vowed, "I will not be an astronaut that paints, but will become an artist that used to be an astronaut."
He explains, "I want to record, in fine art, paintings that will tell future generations of humankind's first exploration of another world."
SFA's speaker series, which debuted last spring, was created to honor and preserve McDonald's legacy as a distinguished scholar, educator and community commentator. A prominent national figure will be hosted annually at SFA to discuss contemporary cultural issues – from politics to art – in the tradition of McDonald's writings and oral presentations. The annual event is sponsored by SFA's Student Government Association and College of Liberal and Applied Arts.
McDonald has taught history at SFA for 46 years and served as director of the East Texas Historical Association and editor of the association's journal for 37 years. He is a past president of the Texas State Historical Association, past vice chair of the Texas Historical Commission and author/editor of more than 20 books on historical topics. Along with teaching, McDonald currently serves as the SFA university/community liaison and is a weekly commentator on Red River Radio in Shreveport.