Neil Armstrong will forever remain part of Purdue’s culture, but we should remember him as a person as much as an astronaut.
Most everyone knows of Armstrong’s famous lunar steps. He took the Purdue name to uncharted territory. Even those of us born decades after a Boilermaker took that history-making step recognize Armstrong’s contributions to the University and to society as a whole. His most commendable trait, though, perhaps is not his lunar landing but, rather, his humility.
News of Armstrong’s death spread across the Web within minutes Saturday and nearly as fast offline. Unlike with many tragic events, however, everyone had something positive to say about Armstrong. The most controversial aspect of coverage questioned whether his famous ‘one small step’ quote was misheard. He lived his life in such a way that even anonymous spammers didn’t attempt to defame him, and that demonstrates a truly great accomplishment.
Those Armstrong worked with describe him as humble and private, and he preferred not to make public appearances unless he thought he could inspire others at the event. In a 2000 speech, he said he never dreamed of walking on the moon. He did, however, work hard to accomplish something he hadn’t even dreamed of.
The Purdue community should honor Armstrong’s legacy by mirroring his personality: by working hard, by remaining humble in the face of fame and by accomplishing feats beyond our wildest dreams. As his family has requested, we should think of Neil whenever we glimpse the midnight sun, but as Boilermakers, we also need to keep his humility and diligence alive in our own conquests.
Dream big, Purdue, and do it humbly.