The UTC Challenger STEM Learning Center recently received a gift of $10,000 from the McKee Foods Corporation in support of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educational programs. The Challenger Mission Control Center is named in honor of the late Ruth McKee, and the McKee family has been an ardent supporter of the Challenger Center since its inception in 1995 as well as the National Challenger Center in Washington D.C.

From left: Perry Storey, Ellsworth McKee, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers

From left: Perry Storey, Ellsworth McKee, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers

Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of the late Dick Scobee, Commander of the Challenger Space Shuttle, has worked with the McKee family since she led the planning for construction of the UTC Challenger Center in 1992.

“When you say McKee Foods, everyone thinks of Little Debbie and their other quality food products. In the Tennessee Valley Region, we also think of a family and company that have always led the way in giving back to their community,” said Scobee Rodgers.

Soon after Ruth McKee’s death, the family began to look for ways to bring lasting honor to her memory and her passion for education and teaching. The family’s funding of the Mission Control classroom of the Challenger Center has allowed teachers and students to study together in a classroom that bears Ruth McKee’s name. Since 1995 over 100,000 students and teachers have visited the Challenger Center and flown simulated missions to the moon and Mars and experienced a rendezvous with Comet Halley.

Perry Storey, Director of the UTC Challenger STEM Learning Center indicated that this new donation will help with the advancement of the new Virtual Mission, “Tennessee River in Crisis,” which is now in development.

“Mr. Ellsworth McKee was very excited to see how the Challenger Center is advancing our great programs with technology, ensuring that we are meeting the educational needs of our school partners and continue to challenge students with quality STEM programs. This gift will help to complete the technical equipment and teacher training needs for the new V-Mission program,” said Storey.

Dr. Valerie Rutledge, Dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga noted that the McKee family and Corporation have been outstanding partners for many quality educational programs at the University.  She says this gift is another indication of how important investing in education is for this family and the Corporation.

“Their philanthropy over the years has impacted thousands of individuals in ways that are life changing,” said Rutledge.

The UTC Challenger STEM Learning Center is connected to a global network of 45 Centers located throughout the United State, Canada, Great Britain and South Korea. In addition to the Space Mission program, the UTC Challenger Center offers team building, strategic planning, and retreat programs that serve youth and adult groups including corporation and non-profit organizations.

Learn more about the UTC Challenger Center or schedule a program at or by calling (423) 425-2191.

Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call 423-425-4363.
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