Alan Ladwig (’68) built a notable career fueled by a mantra to always shoot for the stars. Literally. His extensive accomplishments include serving in the U.S. Army; spearheading the growing frontier of private space travel; advising two U.S. presidents in service at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); exploring his talent and love for space-themed art; and publishing his first book, “See You in Orbit? Our Dream of Space Flight.“ Additionally, Ladwig is an Illinois Community College Trustees Association distinguished alumnus awardee and is a leading advocate for increased access to science and space careers for young people.
ECC alumna Angela Andrada (’18) is an aspiring scientist grateful for Ladwig's support.
“Alan was the first person I met who had a direct connection to the industry I dreamed of being a part of. He helped me understand more about the larger space industry and how it's growing, including commercialization,“ said Andrada. “It's so much more than rocket science, which is all I thought I knew before meeting Alan. He mentors me and helps me stay connected as I look for more opportunities to gain experience in the industry, reminding me that everyone's path is different and to never give up.“
Ladwig is the founder and president of To Orbit Productions, which provides consulting services and lectures on space policy. He is also executive vice president of communications and board member for STAR HARBOR Space Academy, the world's first publicly accessible spaceflight training facility.
Ladwig earned an associate degree from Elgin Community College and then attended Southern Illinois University, majoring in speech. After completing his master’s degree, he landed a position as president of Forum for the Advancement of Students in Science and Technology. “One of our focuses was aerospace, and then I really got involved in space,“ said Ladwig. From there, NASA recruited him to head the Shuttle Student Involvement Program, integrating student experiments into the newly developed space shuttle program.
Ladwig's advice for young people is influenced by the unique way his own career took shape. “You need to find something you're passionate about,“ Ladwig said. “I tell them, ’aim high and dream big — you'll be amazed at what might happen.’“