Apollo 11 Head of Communications Edward Fendell '51 spoke to Becker Can Do Class of 2009

Published on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Click here to see photos of the May 2009 Commencement.

Former head of the NASA Communications Systems Section, Flight Control Division, and 1951 graduate of Becker College, Edward I. Fendell gave the keynote address at Becker College’s 221st commencement ceremony on May 9, 2009 at the DCU Center, downtown Worcester.

Head of the Communications Systems Section, Flight Control Division at NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Johnson Space Center on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Mr. Fendell told his incredible story of starting out as an unlikely college student graduating with an associate degree in merchandising and landing a position with NASA and the fledgling manned-space flight program.

Mr. Fendell described the day he was assigned to learn the wiring of the Gemini spacecraft and his fear of having no engineering training. A superior instructed him to ring his desk with cardboard and to post diagrams of the fuses and circuit breakers.  He went on to design consoles, write operating procedures, and ultimately project images from the moon to earth. This is how Mr. Fendell discovered his "Can Do" philosophy, because can-not was not an option.

"We banded together," Mr. Fendell said of his colleagues at NASA. "A handshake was a commitment. A set of common values tied us together. The values generated a chemistry that amplified our individual and team capabilities. Everyone understood the difference between "I" and "we." The tougher it got, the better we became."

After his story of momentous crossroads, Mr. Fendell exhorted the Class of 2009 to become the "Can Do" class.

One of the mission controllers during the Apollo 13 mission, Mr. Fendell’s contribution has been forever preserved on film. He is portrayed in the award-winning “Apollo 13” movie and in the HBO miniseries, “From Earth to the Moon.” He also was one of the controllers awarded the NASA Superior Achievement Award for exceptional service during Apollo 13.

Mr. Fendell joined NASA in 1963 and was involved in nearly every major manned space flight program—Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo Soyuz Test Project, Skylab and shuttle programs—until his retirement in 1984.

Chairman of the law firm Bowditch & Dewey, Michael P. Angelini spoke at the morning’s Honors Convocation and was honored at the Commencement ceremony, along with Mr. Fendell, with an honorary doctorate degree of humane letters.

Mr. Angelini practices as a trial and business lawyer. He has represented clients in adversary proceedings in the Massachusetts Trial and Appellate Courts and in various Federal District and Circuit Courts and has tried more than fifty jury cases to verdict. He also regularly represents clients before local, state, and federal regulatory and adjudicatory agencies.

Mr. Angelini is a director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hanover Insurance Group. He served as president of the Worcester County Bar Association in 1983 and 1984 and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Association. He is a founding Director of the Worcester County Bar Foundation.

Among the class of 2009 are the first groups of students to graduate from Becker’s newest programs: game design, game programming, accelerated elementary education, accelerated psychology, and the bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Receiving bachelor degrees were 217 students, in the disciplines of graphic design, interior design, game design, game programming, liberal arts, elementary education, psychology, early childhood education, business administration, financial accounting, management, marketing, sports management, criminal justice, legal studies, biology, exercise science, kinesiology and veterinary science. Receiving associate degrees were 103 students, in the disciplines of liberal arts, liberal studies, business administration, early childhood education, nursing, animal care and veterinary technology.

Look for individual graduates’ stories, coming soon.

 Click here for a list of graduates.*