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Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Papers, 1948-2000

Biography | Scope and Content | Chronology | Bibliography

Quantity:37 document, 3 flat storage, 6 cartons, 9 folio+, and 6 poster boxes.
Processed: September 2000
By: Danielle Kovacs
Provenance: The Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Collection was donated to the Archives in the Henry Whittemore Library at Framingham State College in January 2000 by Grace Corrigan. The collection, prior to its coming to the Special Collections, was housed in three locations: Grace Corrigan's home, the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe/Challenger Center and the Alumni House both on the Framingham State campus. During this time, the collection received preliminary processing by Mrs. Corrigan's assistant, Andrea Hamel.

Biography:
Sharon Christa McAuliffe was born September 2, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts to Grace and Edward Corrigan. The eldest of five children, she grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts where she graduated from Marian High School in 1966. She attended Framingham State College, graduating in 1970 with a BA in education and history. Upon graduation, she married her high school sweetheart, Steve McAuliffe, and began her teaching career as a substitute teacher at Benjamin Foulois Junior High School in Morningside, Maryland. Within a year, McAuliffe had acquired her first full-time position teaching American history, civics, and English at Thomas Johnson High in Lanlam, Maryland. During their years in Maryland, McAuliffe gave birth to the couple's first child, Scott, born September 11, 1976, and received her Master's in education supervision and administration from Bowie State College in 1978.

The couple relocated to Concord, New Hampshire in 1978, where McAuliffe gave birth to their second child, Caroline, on August 24, 1979. In 1982, McAuliffe accepted a position to teach American history, law, and economics at Concord High School. It was here that she developed the curriculum for the course, "The American Woman." The course explored the history of the United States from the female perspective, and relied heavily upon the journals and letters of the women who lived it. It was here, too, that McAuliffe's reputation as an exuberant and creative teacher began to grow. She often brought her classes on field trips designed to expose her students to the real-life applications of classroom lessons.

On August 27, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced that the first citizen in space would be a teacher. McAuliffe submitted her application on the last day they could be accepted. Her enthusiasm for the Teacher-in-Space Program was evident from her application essay: "I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies. I watched the space program being born and would like to participate." Her proposed project included a three-part journal meant to capture the every day details of her experiences: the first part would focus on training, the second with the flight, and the third with the aftermath. McAuliffe was selected out of more than 11,000 applicants as one of the 114 semi-finalists to be interviewed in Washington D.C. In July 1985, she traveled to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as one of ten finalists for further interviews and tests. After a rigorous series of physical and psychological tests, it was announced by Vice-President George Bush on July 19, 1985 that Christa McAuliffe would be the first teacher in space.

McAuliffe's training for space mission STS-51-L began on September 9, 1985, and occupied the remainder of the year. The Challenger shuttle was scheduled to launch on January 22, 1986, but was delayed because of a dust storm in the Sahara Desert. Over the course of the next few days, the launch was delayed two more times. Finally, on January 28, 1986, the Challenger launched. The temperature the day of the launch was a record low; it was the coldest launch that NASA had ever attempted. Seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle suffered a leak in one of the solid rocket boosters that resulted in the explosion of the vehicle. Christa Corrigan McAuliffe along with her six crewmembers died in the crash.

During one of the many interviews throughout her training, Christa McAuliffe explained her mission as thus: "You have to dream. We all have to dream. Dreaming is okay. Imagine me teaching from space, all over the world, touching so many people's lives. That's a teacher's dream! I have a vision of the world as a global village, a world without boundaries. Imagine a history teacher making history!"

Scope and Content:
The collection is arranged in five series: Personal / Biographical; Public Response; Tributes / Memorials; Learning Centers, Schools, and Scholarships; Grace Corrigan Papers. The bulk of the collection dates from 1986 to the present. The collection primarily documents the extensive coverage of the Challenger mission both before and after the disaster. It does very little to document the personal and professional life of Christa McAuliffe before her selection as the Teacher in Space.

Series 1: Personal/Biographical:  1954-1986
    Boxes 1-2; arranged alphabetically
The personal papers of Christa Corrigan McAuliffe consist mainly of childhood letters and schoolwork. Also includes photocopies of her application to the Teacher-in-Space Program, as well as photographs, guest lists, passes, invitations, and letters pertaining to the Challenger mission.

Series 2: Public Response
The Public Response files are further divided into three subseries: General Correspondence, Newspapers & Magazines, and Audiovisual.

Subseries A: Correspondence:  1985-1999 
    Box 2 (folder 16-19) - Box 22 (folder 19); arranged alphabetically by state or country and chronologically therein
Correspondence includes sympathy cards, Mass cards, letters, poems, and photographs from individuals throughout the country and around the world wishing to express their grief over the Challenger disaster. The bulk of the mail dates from just after the accident. Over the years, however, letters continued to come addressed to the Corrigans. These letters and cards often express the impact McAuliffe's life has had on the correspondent's own life. Letters from dignitaries and notable personalities were removed from the general correspondence; they can be found at the end of the subseries. Also filed at the end of the subseries are telegrams, undated letters, and envelopes.

Subseries B: Newspapers & Magazines:  1983-2000
    Box 22 (folders 20-29) - Box 24 (folder 35); arranged chronologically
Consists of the newspaper clippings and magazine articles that document McAuliffe's selection and training, the shuttle explosion, and the aftermath. Many of the more recent articles detail Grace Corrigan's efforts to continue her daughter's mission.

For preservation purposes, the news articles and magazines have been photocopied onto acid-free paper. The originals are stored in Boxes 39-45. Also, the majority of newspaper clippings were laminated prior to their deposit in the Special Collections.

Subseries C: Audiovisual:  1960s-2000 (Bulk 1986-2000)
    Box 24 (folders 29-35), AT 1-35, VT 1-98; arranged chronologically
The audiotapes contain sound recordings made by amateur and professional musicians in response to the Challenger tragedy. Many of the tapes were sent to the Corrigans with letters of sympathy and tribute. These letters are filed alphabetically by the title of the tape in Box 24. The tapes also include recordings of official ceremonies, live performances, and interviews about the Challenger crewmembers. The videotapes document the media coverage both before and after the shuttle explosion. They include Corrigan home videos from the 1960s, interviews with Christa McAuliffe, footage of McAuliffe's training, news footage of the shuttle disaster, as well as footage of Grace Corrigan's educational activities from the late 1980s to the present.

Series 3: Tributes / Memorials:  1985-1997
    Box 24 (folder 36) - Box 26 (folder 12); arranged alphabetically
Consists of subject files, programs, proclamations, resolutions, flags, and posters that detail the many tributes and memorials established for Christa Corrigan McAuliffe and the Challenger crewmembers.

Series 4: Learning Centers, Schools, and Scholarships:  1986-1998
    Box 26 (folders 13-21) - Box 31 (folder 6), Box 53-54; arranged alphabetically
Contains materials relating to the programs and institutions that were named for and founded after McAuliffe and her educational mission. They include subject files, Christa McAuliffe fellow projects, programs, banners and posters, books, student essays and projects, and ephemera. Taken as a whole, the materials demonstrate the broad effect that McAuliffe had and continues to have on teachers, the teaching profession, and students. Items pertaining to the elementary and middle schools named in her honor are filed alphabetically by state at the end of the subseries.

Series 5: Grace Corrigan Papers:  1947-1999 (Bulk 1986-1996)
    Box 31 (folders 7-9) - Box 37 (folder 28); arranged alphabetically
Consists primarily of typescripts, letters, and subject files relating to Grace Corrigan's public appearances, participation in educational projects, and travel. Also, includes drafts, contracts, and correspondence pertaining to her book, A Journal for Christa.

Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Chronology:

1948

Born Sharon Christa Corrigan September 2, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts to Grace and Edward Corrigan.

1966 Graduates from Marian High School in Framingham, Massachusetts.
1970 Receives a BA in education and history from Framingham State College.
Marries Steve McAuliffe on August 23, 1970.
Begins teaching career as a substitute teacher at Benjamin Foulois Junior High School in Morningside, Maryland.
1971 Acquires first full-time position teaching American history, civics, and English at Thomas Johnson Junior High in Lanlam, Maryland.
1976 Son Scott is born September 11, 1976.
1978 Receives MA in education supervision and administration from Bowie State College in Maryland.
Moves to Concord, New Hampshire & returned to substitute teaching.
1979 Daughter Caroline is born on August 24, 1979.
Begins teaching social studies & English full time at Bow Memorial School in Concord, New Hampshire.
1982

Accepts a position to teach American history, law, and economics at Concord High School where she develops the curriculum for "The American Woman," a U.S. history class told from the female perspective.

 

1984 President Ronald Reagan announces that NASA's first citizen in space would be
"one of America's finest: a teacher."

Becomes one of more than 11,000 applicants to compete in the Teacher in Space Program.

1985

Travels to Washington D.C. in June 1985 to be interviewed along with 113 other applicants by a panel of judges including four former astronauts, college presidents, actress Pam Dawber, artificial heart inventor Robert Jarville, and former pro basketball player Wes Unseld.

 

On June 28, 1985 ten finalists are chosen and brought to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston to undergo a series of physical and psychological tests.
July 19, 1985, Vice President George Bush announces that Christa McAuliffe will become the first teacher in space.
Training begins for space mission STS-51-L on September 9, 1985.
1986

The Challenger shuttle is scheduled to launch on January 22, 1986, but is delayed because of a dust storm in the Sahara Desert.

The launch is delayed twice more on January 26-27.
The Challenger is launched on January 28, 1986. It was the coldest launch NASA had ever attempted. Seventy-three seconds into its flight, the shuttle exploded due to a leak in one of the two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank. Christa McAuliffe, Micheal J. Smith, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnick died in the crash.


Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Bibliography:

Buchanan, Doug. Air & Space. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

Corrigan, Grace George. A Journal for Christa: Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Holher, Robert. I Touch the Future: The Story of Christa McAuliffe. Thorndike, Maine: Thorndike Press, 1986.

Schraff, Anne E. American Heroes of Exploration and Flight. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1996.

Touching the Future. Washington D.C.: National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, 1995.

Weller, Paul. The Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching Experience: The First Decade 1986-1996. Framingham State College Report.

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