Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter presented the highest civilian honor the State of Idaho bestows Monday -- to Idaho educator and former astronaut Barbara Morgan.
Morgan received the Idaho Medal of Achievement at the conclusion of Otter’s State of the State address before a joint session of the Idaho Legislature.
“It is a great honor to live and work with the people of Idaho. This beautiful award gives me the opportunity to thank everyone,” Morgan said. “I want especially to thank the Idaho Medal of Achievement commissioners, our Idaho Governor Butch Otter, and the school teachers of Idaho, who are my inspiration.”
The Idaho Medal of Achievement was created by executive order in November, 2015, to recognize individual Idahoans for their “exceptional, meritorious, and inspirational” service to the people of Idaho.
“It is uniquely fitting that the first recipient of Idaho’s highest civilian honor goes to a pioneering educator who brought the promise of space flight to our students from a classroom above the clouds,” Otter said. “Her career as an educator -- and then, an astronaut -- has inspired a generation of young people not only about the importance of science but how high you can go when you aspire to do great things.”
Morgan spent 24 years as an elementary school teacher and was the back-up to Christa McAuliffe, who was to be America’s first teacher in space. Following McAuliffe’s death in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Morgan became the first teacher-astronaut to travel to space aboard the shuttle Endeavor in 2007. Since then, in addition to her work with NASA Morgan has provided vision and leadership for Idaho K-12 STEM teachers and now is a distinguished teacher in residence at Boise State University.
The four-member Idaho Medal of Achievement Commission unanimously included Morgan as one of the top three candidates submitted to Governor Otter for his final consideration.
The award is given to individuals, living or dead, who are nominated by the public to a five-member commission and then approved by Otter.
Hecla Mining Co. provided the silver for six medals. Each medal features a relief carving of the Idaho Capitol and the official state seat.
(Associated Press contributed to this story)