Archive for Thursday, March 1, 2007

Township firefighter called to Hutch

March 1, 2007

When it comes to testing his leadership skills, former Eudora Township volunteer firefighter Chris Orwoll might have found exactly what he was looking for.

That's something coming from a man who once served as an executive officer on the world's deepest diving submarine ---- the USS Dolphin.

His new position thrusts him on the edge of a different frontier. Instead of trolling the ocean depths, he's opening minds to mysteries of the cosmos.

He accepted an offer to become the president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson.

"If you think about it, it's one of the premier space education facilities in the United States," Orwoll said. "It ranks right up there with any of them."

Orwoll retired from the U.S. Navy in January. He had planned to take his family on a trip to the center when he came across the job advertisement.

"I saw what I thought would be a natural fit there," he said.

From 2003 to 2006, Orwoll taught as professor of Naval Science at Kansas University. During that time, he was also the commanding officer of the Naval Reserve Training Corps.

His responsibilities included both educational and logistical support of more than 90 midshipmen and their dependents. He helped develop curriculum for the national NROTC for more than 3,000 students.

The fact he had family involved in the space program might not have hurt his chances, either.

His father-in-law worked on both the Apollo and space shuttle missions.

"My wife is really sad he's not around to see this," Orwoll said. "She said he would have loved to see this."

Orwoll will lead the Cosmosphere in its three main functions, he said. The center houses an extensive space museum containing relics from the early years of space exploration, like the Liberty Bell 7 capsule and the Apollo 13 capsule Odyssey. The center offers space camps where both young adults and older adults can learn what it's like to become an astronaut. The center also restores items used in international space programs.

"You've got those three entities to really kind of pull it together into one program that is going to take the Cosmosphere into the next, shall we say, 5-to-10 years of growth," Orwoll said. "A leadership challenge like that is something you seek after all the time."

In the coming years, Orwoll said he could imagine the center expanding onto adjoining land and incorporating more interactive exhibits, he said.

"How would you like to get in a lunar lander and land on the moon, or space shuttle?" Orwoll said.

The camps offer attendees the opportunity to take part in similar missions, but Orwoll could see more exhibits available for those visiting just for the day.

While he's preparing to start his new job in Hutchinson, Orwoll and his family are also saying farewell to Eudora.

The Orwolls were heavily involved as volunteers throughout the community.

"Volunteer work has been part of my life since the beginning," he said. "I've been doing it since I was in high school and will continue to do it in Hutchinson," he said.

He served as a training director for the Eudora Township Fire Department.

The department had a going away party for him Friday.

"Even though we're going to miss him at the fire department, we're behind him," Eudora Township firefighter Sue Coleman said. "We think this is really good for him."

Orwoll will start his new position Monday.

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