Remembering Sally Ride

David Lim

Sally Ride ’68, the first American woman and youngest person to go into outer space, died of pancreatic cancer July 23 in her La Jolla home. She was 61.

Ride, who was a nationally ranked tennis player, attended Westlake for three years on a partial tennis scholarship. She credited her interest in science to Westlake life science teacher Elizabeth Mommaerts.

Ride attended Swarthmore College for three semesters before getting her bachelors, masters and Ph.D. at Stanford.

She joined NASA in 1978 after responding to an ad in the Stanford Daily for women who wanted to be astronauts.

History Teacher Francine Werner ’68 became friends with Ride sitting next to her in her senior English class at Westlake.

Werner described Ride as both “very funny” and “very serious and very intellectual” in the classroom.

“She was pretty brave intellectually and just really took as many advanced classes as she possibly could,” Werner said.

“Not that many girls took the physics and chemistry,” Werner said. “Most people took biology in 10th grade and then physiology in 11th grade and stopped. But [Ride] definitely had the interest.”

Ride returned to both the Westlake and Harvard-Westlake campuses to address students as part of Women’s History Assemblies, and talked about the importance of women studying science.

After retiring from NASA, Ride worked in education and founded her own company, Sally Ride Science in 2001 to motivate students, especially girls, to pursue careers in science.

“The adult she became was the kid that she was,” Werner adds.