Apollo 7 pilot and HMNS anthropology curator will debate severity of climate change: San Jacinto College to host climate change debate

02.10.2017 | By Andrea Vasquez

HOUSTON – Col. Walter Cunningham, Apollo 7 pilot and Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, Houston Museum of Natural Science anthropology curator will be featured as guest debaters in the San Jacinto College South Campus Lyceum Committee’s debate event, “Climate Change: Are We in Danger?” on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Cunningham began his career as a U.S. Marine Corp fighter pilot and was selected as an astronaut in 1963. In 1968 he served as the pilot for NASA’s Apollo 7 spaceflight mission, the longest and most successful first test flight of any new flying machine. Since then he has seen success with his own venture capital firm and as a writer, authoring the book “The All-American Boys” about the American space program. He has also been involved with energy and environmental issues since 1970 as one of the founders of The Earth Awareness Foundation, served on the advisory board of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is a known, outspoken critic of the human caused global warming argument. Cunningham has graduate degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles in physics and the Harvard Business School.

A native of Belgium, Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout attended the Catholic University of Louvain, receiving degrees in ancient history and archaeology and was later accepted to Tulane University in New Orleans. Tulane’s anthropology department provided a strong four-field education with courses in archaeology, linguistics and physical and cultural anthropology. Through the Middle American Research Institute, he participated in excavations in Belize and Guatemala. He graduated from Tulane with a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in anthropology and began teaching at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. In 1999, he accepted the position of anthropology curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and since then has maintained and expanded the anthropology holdings and organized temporary exhibits. He has also written a book on Aztec culture and has curated various exhibits. Among those exhibits are one on Ethiopia, featuring the original Lucy fossil, the Maya; and most recently the Virgen de Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas exhibit. For the last 13 summers he has also taught an introductory anthropology course at the University of Houston - Clear Lake.

Dr. Tuerenhout and Col. Cunningham will serve as guest debate team leaders, each presenting their stance on the issue prior to the debate. Several San Jacinto College students will join each guest as members of their debate team. Joining Dr. Tuerenhout will be Alfredo Ramirez and Daniel Perdomo Castillo; joining Col. Cunningham will be Phi Tran and Emily Fleck. Debate questions were crowd sourced from San Jacinto College South Campus students, faculty and staff. The Lyceum Committee selected a series of questions that were approved by the moderator and team leaders prior to the debate. Debate questions were provided to both teams to facilitate research and preparation. Final decisions regarding the debate’s content will be at the discretion of the moderator. 

The debate event “Climate Change: Are We in Danger?” takes place on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Proscenium Theatre inside the Marie Spence Flickinger Fine Arts Center (building S15) at the San Jacinto College South Campus, located at 13735 Beamer Road in Houston. Doors open at 10 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.


About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 finalist and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, call 281-998-6150 or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.