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'U' Can Boast Of Triple Link With Gemini Space Flight

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‘U’ Can Boast Of Triple Link With Qemini Space Flight

The two astronauts in tomorrow’s Gemini space flight and a doctor who will talk to them as they circle the earth are all former Ann Arbor residents who hold degrees from the University.

Space craft pilot James A. McDivitt once owned a home at 1710 Saunders Crescent, while co-pilot Edward H. White formerly lived at 1420 Hatcher Crescent. Dr. George L. Allen, the Army doctor who will check the astronauts from the Corpus Christi tracking station, lived at 415 Forest for eight years.

U-M President Harlan Hatcher has sent a message of good wishes to his former students who will attempt to write a new chapter in America’s space flight history with a walk in space.

James E. Webb, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, issued an invitation to Hatcher to witness the lift-off from Pad 19 at Cape Kennedy, but he was unable to accept because of a commitment to give the commencement address at Leland High School near Traverse City.

U-M Executive Vice President Marvin L. Niehuss and Prof. Wilbur C. Nelson, chairman of the College of Engineering aeronautical and astronautical engineering department, have been delegated by Hatcher to attend in his place.

Hatcher’s telegram to the two astronauts reads: “As president of the University of Michigan and on behalf of your many friends in the University community, including your professors in the department of aeronautical and astronautical engineering and 216,000 Michigan alumni throughout the world, we send our best wishes to you on the eve of your Gemini flight. We salute you with special pride and hope for great success on your history-making exploration of outer space.”

Mrs. Robert G. Oxenger of 1705 Saunders Crescent, who lived across the street from the McDivitt family for two years while they were Ann Arbor residents, called the Gemini pilot “just an all-around nice guy.”

Mrs. Warren H. Wheeler, who with her husband, bought the McDivitt home when the astronaut and his family left Ann Arbor, and still live there, called the McDivitts "nice people" and said she would be watching tomorrow's space flight with special interest.

McDivitt "was a hard worker, and a very conscientious worker who was very much interested in his studies, and his wife was just as interested in his work as he was," Mrs. Oxenger said. "But as hard working as he was he still had time for his family and neighbors," she added.

Mrs. Merrill McClatchey of 2793 Newport, from whom the Whites rented their home on Hatcher Crescent, called the Gemini co-pilot and his family "awful nice people."

Prof. Nelson said "White was a good solid graduate student doing very fine work, and McDivitt was truly outstanding, both academically and as an individual."

He noted that both astronauts are "well-balanced, all-around individuals with a broad range of interests."

McDivitt and White, both now Air Force majors, earned degrees in the U-M department of aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1959. McDivitt received a bachelor of science in engineering degree and White a master of science in engineering. Both studied at the U-M for more than two years.

McDivitt compiled a straight-A record to finish ahead of 606 U-M Engineering College seniors graduating with him. White had a mixture of A’s and B’s in his highly specialized graduate program in astronautics, which required two and a half years of study on the Ann Arbor campus.

Dr. Allen, now an Army major and staff member at the Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, received his bachelor's degree from the U-M Literary College in 1956, and his doctor of medicine degree, also from the U-M, in 1959.

In a telephone conversation from Corpus Christi with The News this morning, Dr. Allen said he had been “running simulated space flight missions the last four days” at the Texas tracking station. “We’ll be going out again today to check out,” he added.

He said that he and his wife, the former Dorothy Hammett, plan to be in Ann Arbor in about two weeks for a visit.

Dr. Allen said he was selected by the Army to serve as the physician in contact with the astronauts at the Corpus Christi station. He said he has met the astronauts in Houston. He has been with the NASA space program for a year and a half.

"If I talk with Mr. McDivitt or not will depend on circumstances. But we expect to talk at times." Dr. Allen will be busy collecting medical data on the astronauts that are transmitted to earth in the form of electronic signals.

McDivitt, who spent most of his early life in Michigan, having lived in Jackson, Kalamazoo and Midland, in addition to Ann Arbor, flew 145 jet fighter missions in Korea.

White was born in Texas and attended high school in Washington, D.C. Both astronauts now live in Houston with their families, and both have kept in contact with their friends in Ann Arbor through cards, letters and the occasional visits.