Auburn University: Astronaut Thornton in honored group

Retired astronaut Kathryn Thornton is among four Auburn University graduates being honored by the school with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Others being honored are shipping magnate Robert Kenneth Johns, insurance mogul J. Smith Lanier II and rocket scientist Gerald W. Smith.

Thornton, who lives in Charlottesville, Va. where she is a dean in the University of Virginia engineering school, is a 1974 graduate. A native of Montgomery, Ala., she flew space missions on the Discovery, Columbia and Endeavour.

Lanier, who lives in Lanett, Ala., is a 1949 graduate. He retired as the chairman of J. Smith Lanier and Co., one of the oldest and largest independent insurance brokerage firms in the country.

Smith, who lives in Huntsville, Ala., is a 1961 graduate. He served as deputy director and acting director of NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center. He has served as president of the Thiokol Corporation in Utah and as director of enterprise strategy and research operations at Georgia Tech.

Johns, who lives in Summit, N.J., is a 1949 graduate. A native of Mobile, Ala., and former Auburn football player, retired as president and CEO of Sea-Land Service Inc. which ultimately developed, engineered and implemented containerized ocean shipping revolutionizing world trade. He is a member of the International Maritime Hall of Fame.

The four will be honored at a ceremony at Auburn on March 6.