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Chaffee scholarship winner aims to leave a legacy, in the lab or in the air

Recipient carries on tradition honoring late GR astronaut

If Forest Hills Central High senior Noah Stout could have a conversation with the late Roger B. Chaffee, American naval officer and astronaut, it’s likely the word “legacy” would come up more than once.

Noah, who will enter the U.S. Air Force Academy in the fall, recently was named recipient of this year’s $3,000 annual award from the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Fund.

Noah Stout, Forest Hills Central High senior and this year’s Roger B. Chaffee scholarship honoree

“We are always looking for a student who will carry out the aspirations and commemorate the memory of Chaffee,” said Ted Burba, chairman of the scholarship committee. “Noah fit very well in that criteria.”

Even before he’d applied for the scholarship, Noah said he had been ruminating on the concept of legacy since he began work on post-secondary application essays.

One quote he said “I almost live by,” which has been attributed to British graffiti artist Banksy, Noah remembers as “They say you die twice: when your heart stops beating, and a second time when someone says your name for the last time.”

“That makes a lot of sense to me,” Noah said. “I’ve wanted to do something where I will not be forgotten. And the Air Force refers to the ‘beautiful long blue line’ of their alumni. And being a part of that is pretty cool.”

That his name will be laser-engraved on a plaque at the Grand Rapids Public Museum plays into that idea of legacy.

(courtesy) Forest Hills Central senior Noah Stout attended a banquet at the Grand Rapids Public Museum to commemorate being named this year’s Chaffee Memorial scholarship honoree

From Chaffee’s Legacy to Noah’s

Noah is the 52nd student to receive the Chaffee scholarship, awarded annually to a Kent County area student pursuing a college career in engineering or the sciences.

It was established in 1967 by family and friends of Chaffee, a Grand Rapids Central High School graduate and early NASA astronaut. Chaffee died in Jan. 27 of that year, along with Gus Grissom and Edward White, when a fire swept through the command capsule during a simulated launch of the Apollo I spacecraft.

“The whole flight and space-related dynamic is something that has really interested me,” Noah said. “My teachers told me they had been nominating students for years and years to no avail. It’s obviously a pretty tough scholarship to win.”

While he has long been interested in a military career, Noah credited the ski team captain his freshman year with sparking his interest in attending a service academy. His ski team coach was a naval academy graduate. He said sophomore teacher Russ Chudy helped pique his interest in chemistry, and that AP chemistry teacher David VonEhr solidified that interest.

Noah will study chemistry at the Air Force Academy and plans to specialize in materials chemistry, such as how various aircraft paints and insulations can be improved or serve a specific purpose.

“For me, it’s been about wanting to be part of something that’s bigger than myself,” he said. “I feel like it has more significance, more of a legacy than a traditional college.”

Every cadet, no matter their specialty, learns to fly. So who knows? Though Noah currently is eyeing a laboratory career, he could find himself flying for a living. Maybe to the moon, even.

“Or a lab on the moon,” he said, smiling.

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Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Fund

(courtesy) From left: David W. Pequet, scholarship treasurer; J. Brett Grill, keynote speaker, sculptor of Roger Chaffee bronze at the Grand Rapids Public Museum; Robert Steelman, scholarship president; and Noah Sout, 52nd winner of the Chaffee scholarship

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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