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Dr. Robert Channing Seamans Jr. had a career that was nothing short of awe-inspiring. He was a NASA administrator whose work helped the U.S. put a man on the moon, secretary of the United States Air Force, president of the National Academy of Engineering, and the first administrator of the Energy Research and Development Administration—to name just a few of his titles. Yet despite these accomplishments, Seamans is affectionately remembered by his nephew Caleb Loring III not as the celebrated scientist, but rather “just Uncle Bob.”
Seamans was an incredibly engaging, inquisitive man who loved nothing more than spending time with his family, Loring said. Seamans was particularly close with his brother-in-law (Loring’s father) Caleb Loring Jr., a longtime senior executive at Fidelity. Seamans and Loring Jr. had much in common, including a shared belief in the importance of the Museum of Science and its mission. Both supported the institution during their lifetimes. In fact, one of the final charitable gifts Seamans made was to the Museum’s Charles Hayden Planetarium.
To carry on their legacy, when Caleb Loring Jr. passed away, his children decided to use proceeds from their father’s estate to create The Dr. Robert Channing Seamans Jr. Endowment Fund at the Planetarium. Fittingly, the endowment will support the maintenance and care of the Planetarium, as well as its interns, in perpetuity. “What inspired me to make this gift out of my father’s estate was the close relationship that those two men had,” Loring III said. “I know Dad would want us to do this to honor Uncle Bob.”
Seamans was born in Salem, MA, and attended Harvard University and MIT, where he held teaching and project-management positions. He worked at NASA from 1965 to 1968 as an associate administrator and deputy administrator. When he passed away in 2008, NASA released a statement calling him “one of the great pioneers and leaders of America’s space program.” After leaving NASA, he served as the ninth secretary of the U.S. Air Force from 1969 to 1973 and continued to work in Washington, DC, as an advisor into his 80s.
Seamans reached another impressive milestone in his eighth decade: getting a free senior ski pass. “That was the most exciting thing to him when he turned 80,” Loring said with a laugh. Seamans was endlessly active throughout his life, often with Loring Jr. by his side. The two enjoyed football and ice hockey as well as competitive sailboat racing. Seamans and Loring were also avid tennis players—while serving as secretary of the Air Force, Seamans quickly learned which bases had tennis courts.
In the midst of busy schedules, both men made time to give back to others—whether that meant supporting local nonprofits or, in Seaman’s case, helping his great-nephew with a middle school science project on alternative energy sources. “I remember I watched him sit down with this 12-year-old and really engage in a discussion at a level where not only my son was learning, but I was learning from him,” Loring III recalled. “That was the thing about Uncle Bob, he had an elevated mind, but he knew how to translate information so that anyone could understand.”
The Dr. Robert Channing Seamans Jr. Endowment Fund will forever help to teach and inspire the next generation of space travelers and scientists. Just as important, it will serve as a permanent memorial to Seamans and Loring’s friendship.
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