- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2006

Alumni from Woodward High School’s Class of 1981 in Rockville missed one classmate at their 25th reunion Sunday.

But they likely will catch a glimpse of her on their TV sets at 2:38 p.m. today, when Navy Cmdr. Lisa M. Nowak is scheduled to fly off into space for the first time.

Cmdr. Nowak, 43, now of Houston, is part of the seven-member crew of the NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

She is expected to control the robotic arm during the mission’s first spacewalk, according to NASA’s Web site.

Yesterday, a former classmate who attended preschool through high school with Cmdr. Nowak described her as a happy person who always got good grades.

“She was just a sweet girl,” said Dennis Alloy, 43, of Tysons Corner, who is in real estate development.

Although it has been a few years since he has communicated with her, Mr. Alloy remembers Cmdr. Nowak’s genuinely warm qualities.

“I never saw her in a bad mood,” Mr. Alloy said. “She ran track. She was athletic but not a jock.”

In her studies, Mrs. Nowak was a hard worker, graduating from Woodward as valedictorian of her class.

“She was very into math and science, and had good grades,” Mr. Alloy said. “She always had good grades and took advanced courses.”

Cmdr. Nowak’s interest in aerospace science was not as apparent, but “I don’t know back then if anyone knew what they wanted to do,” he said.

After graduating from Woodward, Cmdr. Nowak received a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985 and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering and a degree of aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, both in 1992, according to her biography, posted on NASA’s Web site.

A wife and mother of three, Cmdr. Nowak has logged more than 1,500 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft.

Her parents, Alfredo and Jane Caputo, still live in Rockville. Woodward closed in 1987 and merged with neighboring Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.

Classmates had the television tuned to the launch during the reunion Sunday after bad weather delayed the launch Saturday. Bad weather also scrapped the launch Sunday, so NASA officials rescheduled it to today.

During the nearly two-week mission, the crew will test new equipment and procedures to improve shuttle safety and deliver supplies and make repairs to the International Space Station. This mission is the 115th shuttle flight and the 18th U.S. flight to the space station.

Mr. Alloy said there has been a lot of talk among former classmates about the launch.

“We’ll all be watching. It’s a big deal. … We are all proud of her. It’s very impressive,” he said. “It’s the largest accomplishment from anyone in our class. There are a few good ones [from the class], but she definitely tops them all.”

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