School History: Our Namesake

Aldrin Elementary School is the first building in the United States named in honor of Dr. Buzz Aldrin. Dr. Aldrin was born in Montclair, New Jersey, educated at West Point, graduating with honors in 1951, number three in his class. After receiving his wings, he became a jet fighter pilot, and flew 66 missions in the Korean Conflict. Dr. Aldrin earned his Doctorate in Astronautics from M.I.T., specializing in manned space rendezvous. The techniques he devised were used on U.S. rendezvous missions, including docking with the Russian Cosmonauts.

Buzz Aldrin black and white U.S. Air Force dress uniform portrait.
Buzz Aldrin as Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School

In October 1963, Buzz Aldrin was selected by NASA as one of the early group of astronauts. In November 1966, he established a new record for Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) in space during his Gemini 12 orbital flight. As backup command module pilot for Apollo 8, man’s first flight around the moon, he improved operational techniques for astronautical navigation star display.

A light-skinned man with crew cut hair, smiling. He wears a white space suit, and rests his right hand on the helmet. The spacesuit has hose connectors on the front, along with a NASA logo next to 'Aldrin', which is embroidered on the top center of the suit. There is a large U.S. flag on the left shoulder. The helmet's transparent faceplate is tinted gold. The background is the Moon, tinted dark.
Buzz Aldrin, July 1, 1969

On July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historic Apollo 11 moon landing, becoming the first men to walk on the moon. Dr. Aldrin is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor among nearly 50 other distinguished awards and medals he has received from the United States and numerous foreign countries.

Iconic photograph of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, standing on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, mission commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera.
Buzz Aldrin, July 21, 1969

After retiring from NASA and the Air Force, Dr. Aldrin remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in manned space exploration. He created a master plan of evolving missions for sustained exploration, utilizing “The Cycler” concept, a spacecraft system which makes perpetual orbits between Earth and Mars. In 1953, he received a patent for a permanent space station he designed.

Photograph of Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon taken by astronaut Neil Armstrong. Aldrin is standing next to the Lunar Module and has his back to the camera.
Buzz Aldrin pulls equipment from the Apollo 11 Lunar Module.

In 1974, Dr. Aldrin authored an autobiography, “Return to Earth,” which was followed by another book in 1989, “Men from Earth,” which described his trip to the moon and his unique perspective on America’s future in space. Dr. Aldrin participates in many space organizations worldwide, (i.e., National Space Society), developing space programs and space education. He also endorsed two educational computer software products for America’s youth. Learn more about Buzz Aldrin in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.

The First of Many Visits

Buzz Aldrin’s first visit to our school took place on September 1, 1994, one week before our school opened. Since that time, Dr. Aldrin has visited our school on many occasions, inspiring our students, faculty, and staff to have a passion for wonder. During his first visit, Dr. Aldrin spoke at a dinner held in his honor: “We must have the compassion to nurture the earth and the pride to go to Mars. We must have a resounding commitment to continued human exploration of the solar system so that we are able to walk in realms of wonder in a way which puts our species ahead.”

Photograph of Aldrin Elementary School Principal Gina Ross and Buzz Aldrin. They are standing side-by-side on the small raised platform inside the school lobby. A Virginia flag is visible behind Aldrin.
Principal Gina Ross with Dr. Buzz Aldrin, 1994


Aldrin Elementary School was dedicated on April 25, 1995. A formal ceremony began outside our school’s main entrance at 10:00 a.m. The program included a poem dedicated to Buzz Aldrin, a 21-gun rocket salute, and remarks from several guest speakers.

Photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing at a podium delivering his remarks at Aldrin Elementary School’s dedication ceremony.
Dr. Aldrin was the guest of honor at our dedication. He delivered a very moving address, in which he reminded students that “no dream is too high for those with their eyes in the sky.”

Dr. Aldrin’s remarks to attendees, April 25, 1995

“Few people have the opportunity to attend the dedication of a school that has been named for them. My family and I are appreciative that the leadership of Fairfax County named Aldrin Elementary School in my honor, rather than in my memory! Thank you very much. It is a privilege to be here.

Twenty-five years ago it was a privilege to be there. It was incredible to be someone who lived the words, “to go where no man has gone before,” and science fiction became scientific fact when we walked on the moon. Some of you in the audience may still remember where you were when you heard that the Eagle had landed. Some of you sat glued to a television screen as I climbed down to the surface of the moon. For a nation unwilling to accept second place in the race for space, it was a declaration of victory. For a world believing that space was an unconquerable frontier, it was a shout of triumph. “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

I still hear those words in my ears, just like the hallways of this school echo with the steps of boys and girls and adults. Each day students, teachers, and administrators alike are taking small steps together to embrace the future. Some steps are taken in wheelchairs. Some steps are aided by walkers. Some steps are the small steps of two year olds and the larger ones are the steps of 12 year olds. But no one really moves toward the future alone. Each of us has been helped in our stride toward tomorrow. The steps that occur within this school are not steps taken alone. Parents bold the hand of their children, each step a step of love.

Teachers hold the hands of students, each step a step of knowledge. Administrators hold the hands of students, parents, and faculty so that each step is supported. And community people, business leaders, people like Brian M. Mulholland, government officials like Senator Robb, Senator Warner, and so many others join hands and walk with this student body because the steps of students and faculty may look like small strides, but actually they are the steps that will take us into a world that will look very different.

It is here that you must take advantage of the latest in science and technology. It is here that you must realize that no dream is too small. And it is from here that a new generation of All-Stars have been born. Your theme this year has been ``Reaching for the Moon With Its Stars,'' and appropriately so. Schools are places for those small steps that later become giant leaps. It is here that hopes are nurtured and cultivated. It is here that children can be instructed to do what others have done, and be challenged to do what no one else has accomplished.

My message to you today is that “No dream is too high for those with their eyes in the sky.” You honor more than me and my name with this school. You honor the dreams that propelled our nation to explore space and the hopes that continue to lead us toward the future. May we continue to honor our hopes and dreams by enabling the small steps of children to become giant leaps for humanity. It is obvious that “It's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” every day at Aldrin Elementary School.”

Newspaper clipping from a Herndon Observer newspaper article covering the dedication of Aldrin Elementary School. There is a black and white photograph of Buzz Aldrin seated with a group of some nine students. They are engaged in conversation. The caption reads: Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin talks with students at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School, Reston, Virginia, following the dedication ceremony for the school.
After the dedication ceremony, Buzz Aldrin shook hands with every student and went to all the class assemblies. In the afternoon, a special assembly was held for students featuring a musical production on spaceflights to the moon.
Newspaper clipping of the cover of the Washington Times newspaper from April 28, 1995. The headline reads: Return of the Hero, Buzz Aldrin School dedicates itself to the future. A large color photograph is beneath the headline. It shows Buzz Aldrin seated with a group of 20 students and their teacher on metal risers. On the wall behind them are photographs of a Space Shuttle, children at computers, and the NASA logo.
In the evening, an event called Space Night was held for Aldrin families and the general public at which students demonstrated and displayed science projects. Music was provided by the United States Air Force Brass Quartet, the Herndon High School Band, and the Buzz Aldrin Elementary School Chorus.

Dr. Aldrin has visited our school many times since 1995. On a visit in June 2015 for our school’s 20th anniversary celebration, Dr. Aldrin told students, "You're going to leave here, and you're going to remember your teachers. I hope you will because they have given a little bit of their lives for your education. Without education, doors won't open for you.” When asked about how it felt to have a school named in his honor, Dr. Aldrin said, “It’s pretty impressive. It’s a living memorial, not just a statue or a hall, but where education takes place. And if there’s any hallmark to my success, it’s education.”

Photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing with a group of nine smiling students.
Buzz Aldrin with students, 1997. Dr. Aldrin often visited our school during end-of-the-year celebrations of student scholarship and achievement, much to the delight of our community of learners.
Photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing with a group of nine smiling students.
Buzz Aldrin with students, 1997. Dr. Aldrin often visited our school during end-of-the-year celebrations of student scholarship and achievement, much to the delight of our community of learners.
Photograph of Assistant Principal Barbara Gist with Dr. Buzz Aldrin. They are seated at a small table that has food in the center. Dr. Aldrin is wearing an Aldrin Eagles shirt.
Assistant Principal Barbara Gist with Dr. Aldrin on a surprise visit in 2006.
Photograph of teachers Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Keyser posing with Dr. Buzz Aldrin. They are standing in a classroom and two adults and a child are visible in the doorway behind them.
Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Keyser, two original Kindergarten staff members, with Dr. Aldrin in 2006.

Take a moment to relive Dr. Aldrin’s visit to our school in 2009.