Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum curator to speak at Honors Convocation


    One of TCU's renowned alumni is scheduled to speak at the Honors College Convocation April 18. 

    Valerie Neal will talk about "The American Scholar In Our Time" at this year's Honors Convocation, Lauren Nixon, the Honors College coordinator, said. 

    "I am focusing my talk on ideas about 'the scholar.' What habits of mind and ways of learning are hallmarks of an educated person," Neal wrote in an email to TCU 360. "This topic is at the heart of TCU's mission and the student experience here. I'll draw upon some reading, my own experience and what I observe at TCU." 

    Neal is a curator for the human spaceflight, space shuttle and international space station collections at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. She is best known for curating the museum's exhibition "Where Next, Columbus?" on the future challenges of space exploration. Neal also curated the museum's exhibit "Space Race," according to the Smithsonian's website

    "I am delighted to be asked to speak at the Honors Convocation, and I feel it is a great responsibility because I am an alumna, not a famous scholar who gives such speeches all the time. Some of my friends and professors will be in the audience. I want to speak well to and for my alma mater," Neal wrote.

    After Neal graduated from TCU in 1971, she earned her M.A. in American Studies at the University of Southern California and earned her Ph.D in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, according to the Smithsonian's website. She then taught at the University of Minnesota, the University of Alabama-Huntsville and Vanderbilt University.

    Although Neal has traveled all around the country teaching and working for the Smithsonian, she has been involved with the D.C. and national alumni boards and served a four-year term on the Board of Visitors for AddRan College of Liberal Arts and Dean Schoolmaster with the college's dean, Andrew Schoolmaster, she said.

    "I have kept ties with TCU, especially since the 1990s," Neal wrote. "I keep a horned frog decal on my car, and I have purple in my wardrobe."

    The convocation will occur April 18 at Ed Landreth Auditorium. The convocation will begin at 11 a.m., according to the Honors College website. All classes will be canceled from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Nixon said. 

    Neal was recommended by Peggy Watson, the dean of the Honors College, to speak at the convocation, Nixon said.