Ex-pupils who gave their old school a new dimension;Space links

4th June 1999 at 01:00
Stanwell has two former pupils to thank for its leading place in the space race. Its lunar stained-glass window is dedicated to Barbara Middlehurst, a brilliant astron-omer who was both pupil and teacher at Stanwell She became an expert on the geology of the moon and emigrated to the US in 1959 to work on the Apollo missions. When she died at the age of 80 four years ago, Barbara had long been an inspirational figure to Stanwell staff and students.

Enter Geoff Mules, another ex-pupil. Geoff, now 53, would be one of Stanwell's most famous sons, even without the space links. He left Stanwell in 1963 to become an apprentice fitter and turner, but in his late twenties went back into education and did a degree in economics before emigrating to Canada. Today he lives in Houston and is president of Thiel, the largest scaffolding company in the US.

Through his own interest in the space programme he made contacts at Nasa and became a friend of Barbara Middlehurst.

In 1994 he offered to pay for two Stanwell pupils to visit the Johnson Space Centre in Houston for three weeks in the summer. From that first trip, he and his wife Annette founded the International Space School Foundation, opening up the programme to schools throughout the world.

As unlikely as it seems, Mr Mules and friends from NASA fund the foundation by performing Celtic folk songs in clubs around Texas..

From his company headquarters in Houston, Geoff says: "I think the next generation are going to want more. There will be a lot more interest in space, particularly with computers and the Internet. I thought there was this massive educational opportunity here. When I left school and went to work, I had no idea there were so many people out there in the world, doing different jobs. I wish somebody had told me."

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