Shuttle takes Citadel to new heights Print
Monday, 16 November 2009 15:33

Photo by Citadel Photographer Russ Pace
The excitement among the crowd surrounding the countdown clock was palpable in the last ten minutes before liftoff.  Two unconcerned seagulls circled the spectators, and the American flag danced around as if anticipating the liftoff of the 4.5 million pound space shuttle.  Atlantis blasted off among great billowing clouds of smoke, leaving a trail of exhaust clouds serpentining in its wake—its mission to deliver parts to the International Space Station and bring home station resident Nicole Stott to earth.  But for the Military College of South Carolina, the mission signifies The Citadel’s foray into space exploration. 

Randy Bresnik, ’89, one of the six crew members onboard the space shuttle, was born Sept. 11, 1967, in Fort Knox, Ky.  When he was two weeks old, his father, who was in the Army, drove the family to California.  Just south of Malibu and a little north of Venice Beach in Santa Monica where there’s always an ocean breeze, Bresnik grew up riding his motorcycle along the Pacific Coast Highway and the canyons of Malibu.  His grandfather was a photographer and photography became a hobby of Bresnik’s.  In elementary school, he began playing the drums, a pastime that he continued through college.


When it came time to go to college, Bresnik accepted a Marine Corps scholarship and moved 2,500 miles away to The Citadel, a place he first learned of through Pat Conroy’s book, “The Lords of Discipline.”  He was prepared to push himself to the limits.


Photo by Citadel Photographer Russ Pace
“The Citadel is a choice,” Bresnik wrote in an email just three days before the launch.  “The choice to be challenged and to make sacrifices that you would not have to make at any other institution of higher learning.  The choice to be passive or active in your future, and while that choice may seem hard at first, it is the only way to find out that you are far more capable than you know.”


As a cadet, Bresnik was a member of Band Company and Junior Sword Drill.  He majored in mathematics and earned Gold Stars for academic excellence.


“Most people wonder if they will ever get the chance to realize their full potential.  Those who attend The Citadel don’t have to wonder.  They know.  I do not believe I would be blasting off on the space shuttle Atlantis in three days if I had not made that choice to experience the complete education The Citadel provides.”


As the Atlantis thundered away into orbit, it broke new ground for The Citadel.  And from his vantage point in space, Bresnik has set his sights on another frontier, the International Space Station. Once again, he is pushing himself to the limits.