Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

Created By The Mercury 7 Astronauts

2015 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala Scholar Keynote

2011 Astronaut Scholar Zoe Hesp addressed more than 450 guests as the keynote speaker of the 2015 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala, held May 29 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo/Saturn V Center. View Zoe’s speech on YouTube or read her address in full below:

My name is Zoe Hesp, and I am a very, very proud alumnus of the Astronaut Scholarship program. I received my award in 2011 while I was an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio where I studied Zoology & French. Currently, I am working towards my Ph.D. in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University where I research the role of innate stem cells in repair after spinal cord injury. On the side, I also work as a scientific consultant for a variety of biotechnology investors and start-ups in Ohio and New York. Through this work, I’ve had the opportunity to consult on projects ranging from neuro-rehabilitation mobile apps, to cancer immunotherapies, to novel bioreactors & wound-healing compounds.

It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that I would not be where I am today, and I would not have such a vision for my future, if it were not for the ASF. I have received outstanding mentorship from both ASF alumni and staff, and each person with whom I’ve interacted has taught me a life lesson that has directly contributed to my success. Tonight I wanted to share some of those lessons with you, with the hope of demonstrating that the ASF is more than just a scholarship – it is a life-changing network of individuals who help each other, in order to better help the world.

The first lesson I learned was the importance of giving back. When I won the award in 2011, not only did I have the honor of receiving this award from Robert Cabana, the director of the Kennedy Space Center, but I was also graced by the presence of another ASF alumnus, Jocelyn Passty. I can never forget this moment of kindness, because completely unsolicited, Jocelyn, a woman whom I had never met before, drove an hour to attend my award ceremony in order to reach out and let me know she was there. I still remain in contact with Jocelyn today, and over the years other ASF alumni have reached to me as well, and I know it is because they want to give back and pass along their knowledge and insight to the next generation of scientists and inventors. Likewise, I am extremely eager to participate in new ASF Mentorship Program so I too can give back in everyway I can to the ASF alumni, both current and future.

The second lesson I learned was the importance of having role models and people to look up to. This is where real inspiration comes from; this is how we stay motivated, by seeing those who have come before us and realizing that yes, our ambitions and aspirations are not so crazy after all. The perfect example is of course all of the astronauts present here tonight. I recognize their courage to do what so few have ever done, and my own daily challenges seem so paltry in comparison. But it’s not just the astronauts, it’s also the rest of the ASF alumni who I consider as role models, even those I have never met. A few months ago I helped Lisa update the Scholar database and got the opportunity to read through the resumes and CVs of many of the Scholars. And all I can say is: Wow. I was so unbelievably blown away by their accomplishments that it made me realize I need to set my own standards and goals even higher. The influence of these role models – both the astronauts and scholars – have, without a doubt, made me a better person.


2011 Astronaut Scholar Zoe Hesp addresses the audience at the 2015 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala. Photo credit: Steve Torres

And finally, the third lesson I have learned is the importance of recognition. Many of the recipients of this award do not recognize the depth of their own talent and their capacity for achievement. I know when I received my award letter, I was in utter shock – I could not believe I had been selected, that I ‘measured up’ to the competition. This scholarship was the first real national “recognition” I received, and it truly endowed me with the confidence I needed to take the next steps forward. Not only is the initial recognition of achievement important, but lifetime induction into the ASF also bestowed upon me a responsibility to keep my standards high with the knowledge that everywhere I go, I represent something bigger than myself. I am an ambassador for the ASF, and I always strive to live up to that honor.

I share these lessons with you because I want you to know that your support of the ASF is more than just a donation to a scholarship – you are supporting a national educational mission that endures for a lifetime, and the intangible benefits of being an ASF scholar extend far beyond the financial support. That is why I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your contributions to the ASF.