Lillian Nelson remembers Neil Armstrong as "a delightful person."
The 96-year-old Davenport woman remembers when the astronaut came and spoke at a three-day space seminar on Feb. 10-12, 1972, at Augustana College in Rock Island.
Mrs. Nelson's husband, Harry Nelson, was a longtime astronomy professor at Augustana. During a phone interview Saturday, she said the college had just gotten its planetarium and observatory, and her husband thought holding a seminar on space exploration would be a great way to promote it.
So, he invited Mr. Armstrong and scientists including Dr. James VanAllen, who was head of the physics and astronomy department at the University of Iowa; Dr. Edward Olsen, who was the curator of mineralogy at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and Dr. Thor Karlstrom, who helped make the maps that the astronauts used on the moon, Mrs. Nelson said.
Mr. Armstrong addressed an all-school convocation in Centennial Hall on campus and also participated in two panel discussions on "The Future of Space Exploration," and "Personal Experiences in Space Exploration" while at Augustana, according to a story published in in the Feb. 11, 1972, Daily Dispatch.
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Mrs. Nelson read from notes her husband had taken. He wrote that a moon rock also was on display at the college, which was on loan from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Dr. Nelson wrote that, during his presentation, Mr. Armstrong revealed that the rock was one he had collected while on the moon, Mrs. Nelson said.
She said Mr. Armstrong even named the rock "Bok the Rock."
Dr. Nelson wrote that the audience was "fascinated" and "listened intently while Mr. Armstrong focuses on the genesis of a single rock as he described the evolution of the Earth-moon system from the point of view of 'Bok the Rock,'" Mrs. Nelson read.
Mrs. Nelson said her husband noted in his files that when asked why he decided to come to such a small community, Mr. Armstrong replied, "'I saw the program that was planned and the speakers who were scheduled to appear and thought about all the effort that had gone into this program to involve the students, faculty and surrounding community. I just wanted to a part of it,'" she read.
In addition, she said her husband had attended several launches from the Kennedy Space Center. While it has been years and the time has gotten away from her, Mrs. Nelson said that once, Mr. Armstrong asked her husband if he would be bringing her along.
When Dr. Nelson replied that she wasn't invited, Mrs. Nelson said, "he sent me a special invitation, so I got to go."