John over the moon with his gold award

John Spencer and Lotte Gleeson at the Houses of Parliament. (S)
John Spencer and Lotte Gleeson at the Houses of Parliament. (S)

NASA scientist and Nelson and Colne College alumnus John Spencer has won a prestigious Association of Colleges Gold Award.

The award celebrates the success of further education alumni and acknowledges the role that colleges play in building the foundation of successful careers.

John hit the headlines this year for his role as mission co-investigator in the $700 million New Horizons project, NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

He was nominated for the award by the college where he studied A Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and General Studies, before going on to the University of Cambridge. He has returned to the college for several events to speak about the work he does.

Staff and students from Nelson and Colne College attended the awards ceremony at the House of Commons where John was presented with his award by Baroness Sharp of Guildford.

John said: “I’m thrilled to receive this award, and hope it will bring much-deserved recognition to Nelson and Colne College, and all the schools and teachers of East Lancashire, for the outstanding science and maths education that I received there.

“My American friends and colleagues have often been envious of the education I received, and I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without that solid foundation.”

Nelson and Colne College also nominated Lotte Gleeson (18), as a student showing promise in a similar field, to become one of the Association of Colleges’ future stars.

Lotte is studying A Levels in Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Further Maths, and has secured a conditional offer to read Physics at the University of Oxford. She also attended the ceremony and met John to learn what it takes to create an out of this world career.

Lotte said: “Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had been to Oxbridge, so going there myself never seemed like an option. It has only been within the last two years that I have realised just how many opportunities there are for me to explore in this world. John Spencer’s story shows that no matter what someone’s background, you can still achieve your goals in life with dedication and hard work.

“Having the opportunity to meet someone who once attended the college I attend and yet has had so much success has been truly inspiring for me as it has allowed me to imagine that I might one day be able to follow in his footsteps.”