SIC helps launch a career with NASA
Shawneetown native Joseph Oldham pursued a professional path beginning with Southeastern Illinois College that ultimately led all the way to NASA, a posting on the SIC website said.
Southeastern Illinois College was a natural beginning for Oldham; his aunt Mary Jo Oldham was once SIC president and numerous family members attended the school as well. After graduating from Gallatin County High School in 1999, he applied himself rigorously at the Harrisburg campus, armed with both motivation and top study skills.
Now, he is a scientist who is working on the United States’ next mission to Mars – the Orion spacecraft, scheduled for liftoff in 2018, the posting said. As a structural dynamicist, he works with a team on various logistical aspects of the planned Orion mission with NASA’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.
Oldham, who attained his associate degree in pre-engineering at SIC prior to advancing his studies further, expressed gratitude for the tools that his first college experience allotted him, the post said. In a recent conversation with SIC student Shannon Welker, Oldham related how SIC prepared him for a successful professional life, articulating how his professors helped shape his future.
For example, when first confronting the volume of material required for his course of study, Oldham confided that he was initially “astonished” to discover that his instructor’s advice to double up on his study time was not just well-meaning but in fact accurate, according to the posting.
“My path at SIC is one shared with many who have walked its halls straight out of high school trying to figure out what path to take and finding it difficult to figure out what I would want to do for the rest of my life,” Oldham told Welker, according to the posting. “SIC was a place where I was exposed to the different demands college courses posed compared to what was expected of you in high school, while not significantly disrupting one’s life outside of school.”
Oldham spoke candidly of his years SIC, extending personal thanks to individuals who guided him on his journey such as mathematics professor Alan Morgan and physics professor Frank Schneider. Of Morgan, Oldham told Welker, “He was truly a high quality math professor, even though I didn’t realize it at the time I took his courses. He was as good as they come,” the posting said.
Likewise, his professors from SIC recalled Oldham with admiration. SIC’s Steve Rea, who teaches history, noted, for example, that Oldham was substantially more advanced than some of his classmates.
“He was very bright,” Rea said in he posting. “All of the instructors loved him. A very impressive young man.”
Oldham graduated from the college in 2001 with honors, receiving a degrees in both science and engineering science. Strengthened by the foundation he built at SIC, he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering mechanics at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana; then attained a master’s in mechanical engineering with a specialty in computational mechanics at Bradley University in Peoria.
Today, Oldham lives in Colorado with his family, while the Orion spacecraft is undergoing assembly and testing at NASA’s Florida-based Kennedy Space Center; hence a U.S. mission to Mars can trace its beginnings to a career first nurtured at Illinois’ SIC
“SIC and the support of my family provided a firm foundation for me to chase what once felt like insurmountable challenges and enabled me to call them achievements, and I am very appreciative of this,” the college quoted Oldham as saying. “Southeastern Illinois College offers an invaluable service to all the small rural communities it serves."
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3575 College Rd
Harrisburg, IL 62946-4925