Retired NASA and Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, the first woman to command an American spacecraft, will take the spotlight at Angelo State University’s 2015 E. James Holland University Symposium on American Values Monday, Sept. 21, in the Houston Harte University Center, 1910 Rosemont Drive.

Collins’s presentation, “Space Exploration and American Values,” will be covered in two sessions at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the University Center’s C.J. Davidson Conference Center. For the afternoon session, Collins will speak on “The Future of Space Exploration.” The evening session will feature a public question-and-answer session moderated by Dr. John Wegner, ASU professor of English and interim dean of the Freshman College.

Informal receptions will be held following each session at 3:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the University Center Tower Lobby. The presentations and the receptions are free and open to the public.

Prior to her presentations on Sept. 21, Collins will be the guest of honor at a barbeque at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, in the LeGrand Alumni and Visitors Center, 1620 University Ave. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling Dr. Trey Smith at 325-486-5441. Collins will also visit classes and be the special guest at an invitation-only ASU Honor Society luncheon on Sept. 21.

Collins, retired from a career that included test pilot, astronaut and space shuttle commander, dreamed of being a pilot as a child growing up in Elmira, N.Y. Lacking the funds to attend a four-year college, she earned an associate degree in mathematics and science at a community college, then won a scholarship to Syracuse University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics. She entered the U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program in 1978, the same year NASA opened the shuttle program to women, and Collins discovered she had another dream for herself: to become an astronaut.

In 1990, while attending the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Collins was selected for NASA’s astronaut program and became the first woman to pilot a NASA space shuttle for the 1995 Discovery mission. In 1999, she achieved another milestone by becoming the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, aboard the Columbia. A highlight of her storied career was her command of space shuttle Discovery’s historic “Return to Flight” mission in July of 2005, NASA’s first manned flight following the 2003 loss of the shuttle Columbia. Over the course of her four shuttle flights, she logged more than 872 hours in space.

Her many medals, awards and honors include a Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, French Legion of Honor, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the 2005 Al Neuharth Free Spirit of the Year Award and the 2006 National Space Trophy. Collins also serves on the Air Force Academy Athletic Corp. board of directors.

The Holland Symposium was established in 1984 by then-College of Liberal and Fine Arts Dean E. James Holland.  When Holland retired in 2003, the board of regents named the symposium in his honor.  In its 29 years, the symposium has brought more than 60 nationally prominent figures to the ASU campus to spur thought and debate on issues relevant to American society.  The ASU Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs sponsors the symposium.

For more information go online to the symposium website at