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Rockets and Carriers

Joe Kerwin, M.D. '49 flew on Skylab 2 in 1973.

November 11, 2017

Two additional Fenwick alumni who have served the USA: one a military doctor and astronaut, the other an award-winning author.

Captain Joe Kerwin, M.D. ’49 is the NASA astronaut who flew on the Skylab 2 mission in 1973 and had a 30-year career as a Naval officer. He was the first American medical doctor in space as a “science pilot.” Kerwin also was a CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) for the Apollo 13 mission in 1970 and is the former Director of Life Sciences for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.


Paul Weitz (from left), Charles Conrad, Jr. and Joseph Kerwin (right): America's first space station crew would spend 28 days in space.

In addition, Kerwin was a flight surgeon who earned his "wings" in 1962, logged some 4,500 hours of flying time and flew at Mach II speed before becoming an astronaut in '65. He completed his degree in medicine from Northwestern University and served in the Navy Medical Corps beginning in 1958. Always a Friar, Doc carried his Fenwick award letter "F" with him into space. (It is displayed in the hallowed halls on East Avenue.) After retiring from active duty in 1987, Kerwin spent 10 years at Lockheed working on space-station projects.

Twenty-four years after Skylab 2, Steve Twomey ’69 followed in Kerwin’s Friar footsteps, albeit in non-military fashion. Twomey won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his Philadelphia Inquirer profile of life aboard an aircraft carrier. He also has written for the Washington Post. In 2016, he published Countdown to Pearl Harbor, which examines the 12 days leading up to the Japanese attack. Twomey started his career as a copyboy for the Chicago Tribune while attending Fenwick. 


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