Astronaut Peggy Whitson Receiving Award for Inspiring Others to Chase Their Dreams

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  —  Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson will receive the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award Friday at 7 p.m. at the Ray Center’s All-Star Evening in West Des Moines.

The Robert D. & Billie Ray Center at Drake University bases the award off of the six pillars of character; trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring, fairness and good citizenship. They say Peggy Whitson has demonstrated those exemplary qualities in her life and inspired others to do the same.

Peggy Whitson has spent more time in space than any other American. She holds the U.S. record for 665 days, that’s almost 22 months, in space during her three missions aboard the International Space Station. The 57-year-old astronaut was born in Mount Ayr, Iowa and completed her undergraduate degree at Iowa Wesleyan College. Then she got her PH.D. in Biochemistry from Rice University in Houston Texas. From there she went on to work at NASA.

Executive Director of the Robert D. & Billie Ray Center at Drake University Scott Raecker said, “From an early age she wanted to be a scientist, she wanted to be an astronaut, and she’s fulfilled those dreams and now become an iconic international figure demonstrating great character as again the longest-serving American in space but really an inspiration to all Iowans and all Americans about what you can become if you apply yourself and you demonstrate great character.”

The Ray Center said Whitson motivates and inspires great leadership and character, something they believe should be recognized in Iowans every day with the Iowa Character Award.

“So whether it be Peggy Whitson doing it on the international, global and galaxy stage or whether it’s your next-door neighbor we all have the opportunity to recognize individuals that are doing great things and demonstrating great character,” Raecker said.

After receiving the award. Whitson shared some life advice.

“Number one, find a passion. Find your dream. Find what it is that motivates you because you’re going to spend your life working on that and you want it to be something that means something to you intimately, that’s important. Number two, work for it. Don’t expect somebody to hand it to you on a silver platter, it’s not going to work that way 9.9 times out of 10, so don’t plan on it–work for it. Plan to make the extra effort.”

Whitson’s words of wisdom are something she describes as critical in her own success.

Visit to submit your nominations, which are due May 1st. Winners will be invited to an awards dinner and program in June.

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