NASA and Charles W. Gehrke September 14, 2011Posted by diannaobrien in Uncategorized.
Tags: Charles W. Gehrke, Columbia, Columbia Missouri, Dianna Borsi O'Brien, From the Melon Fields to the Moon, Missouri, NASA, University Archives, University of MIssouri
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Today’s NY Times article about NASA announcement about developing a powerful rocket to take astronauts into deep space could make it easy to forget how uncertain space travel even to the moon once was.
The history of NASA’s early plans to land on the moon is part of the still to be published autobiography of Charles W. Gehrke, From the Melon Fields to the Moon.
In researching for the book, I found a recording of an interview of Charles for a University of Missouri radio program called “University Up-Close.” The program is archived and made available by University Archives, Division of Special Collections, Archives and Rare Books of the MU Libraries at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In the program, Charles says,
“I doubt there’s much question that what we might find will be either one of two things: We’ll find absolutely nothing except for a bunch of rocks with all the inorganic material in them or it will be at the other extreme, that there will be considerable organic materials in these samples as well as even the possibility as rather complex organic molecules. I really believe we will find these molecules.” (Material provided by the University Archives, University of Missouri-Columbia.)
Today, we take it for granted there’s no life on the moon and no danger of killer germs from our nearest space neighbor, but at the time, when the first person walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, things weren’t as certain.
But what’s important is that Charles and his team of scientists — like those at NASA today — persevered despite the unknowns at the time. That’s a powerful lesson Charles’ autobiography can still teach us, that it is persistence that makes the difference between success and failure.
ABC Labs’ CEO Byron Hill steps down September 7, 2011Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Uncategorized.
Tags: Byron Hill, Charles W. Gehrke, Columbia, David Stalling, Dianna Borsi O'Brien, Discovery Ridge, From the Melon Fields to the Moon, Jacob Barker, Jake Halliday, Jim Ussary, Larry Stambaugh, Missouri
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ABC Labs saw Bryon Hill, its CEO depart suddenly according to reports on Sept. 2, 2011 in an article headlined “Hill retires as CEO of ABC Labs,” by Jacob Barker in the Columbia Daily Tribune.
But as the book From the Melon Fields to the Moon shows, ABC Labs has had many unusual departures of CEOs and ups and downs.
The company was started by Charles W. Gehrke with Jim Ussary, who would go on to become its first CEO, David Stalling, who would later work for ABC Labs and spin off a company from the firm, and a fourth man, rarely mentioned, who was bought out early in ABC Lab’s history.
Ussary headed up the firm from its inception in 1968 until 1975, the same year the company posted its first positive net income, $86,501. Ralph Waltz took over as CEO, but some say he was forced out in 1990. By then the company posted $1.1 million in net profit. Larry Stambaugh took over until 1992, with his shift from leadership preceded by a vicious and very public stockholders fight, described in detail in a July 24, 1992, Columbia Daily Tribune article headlined, “ABCs of a corporate battle,” written by Theodore P. Roth.
The next CEO was Jake Halliday, now the CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center. Hill took over from Halliday in 2004 and oversaw the company during an expansion phase which has included moving to Discovery Ridge, expanding its campus on Interstate 70.
Yet, despite the history of ABC Labs, the company has thrived through the decades, going from one employee to its current 350-person staff.
The story of how the company has continued, with its ups and downs, is part of the story of Charles W. Gehrke’s life in the book he wrote prior to his 2009 death, From the Melon Fields to the Moon. The first three chapters of the book are available here.
Literary agent reviewing From the Melon Fields to the Moon August 24, 2011Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General.
Tags: Apollo, Charles W. Gehrke, Columbia, Dianna Borsi O'Brien, From the Melon Fields to the Moon, Missouri, moon rocks, NASA
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A literary agent has expressed interest in the manuscript of From the Melon Fields to the Moon.
Getting a book published takes time, from gathering the information to write the book to finding the right agent to find a publisher for the work. Charles W. Gehrke and I began our work together in March of 2007. It started with an outline he’d written and continued through years of interviews of him and 38 of his former colleagues, students and associates. Then, after the death of Charles in February 2009 at 91, as I promised him shortly before his death, I finished the book using the materials from documents and the interviews already recorded.
Now, the next step is getting an agent who will seek a publisher for the book. An agent is reviewing the manuscript and will provide feedback in a few weeks.
Approaching an agent included developing a book proposal for this rag-to-riches story, which is a story with a twist. Because Charles’s story isn’t just that he began life working in the melon fields, it is about how he went from his humble beginnings to a career that included — but didn’t just include — working on the rarest of scientific samples, the moon rocks from the NASA Apollo moon missions.
The keys to his success were not just his intelligence and hard work, but included his bravado, networking and even some publicity hound tendencies.
Another key to his success was his persistence. Even when he analyzed the moon rocks, he and his team didn’t just do it once, he always noted. They ran the tests over and over to make sure the results were accurate.
And that’s the key to finishing this book and to getting it published. Persistence. Now it’s time to wait for the agent to review the book. And if this agent rejects it, another agent will be sought.
After all, that’s what Charles W. Gehrke would have done.