Skip to Content

Preserving Pride: UB Flag’s Journey Aboard the Challenger

Friday, May 17th, 2024

Certain moments etch themselves into our collective memory, leaving an indelible mark. The tragic flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, stands out as one such moment—a lasting reminder of human courage and sacrifice.

On that ill-fated mission was Gregory B. Jarvis, a 1967 alumnus of the University at Buffalo’s engineering program.  Jarvis was proud of the education he received at the university and requested a UB flag to take aboard the Challenger with him on his upcoming journey.  His intention was to return it to his alma mater upon his homecoming in a gesture of gratitude for the education he received at the university. It was to be Jarvis’ first space voyage, but tragically, the Challenger broke apart just 73 seconds into its flight, claiming the lives of all seven crew members, including Gregory Jarvis.

Among the items retrieved from the wreckage was the gold-fringed UB flag Jarvis had requested to take aboard the Challenger. It had been vacuum-packed and stored in a watertight safe allotted to Jarvis to keep personal items aboard the Challenger.  The UB flag was found among the wreckage in pristine condition and then given to his wife, Marcia Jarvis.

In honor of Jarvis’s legacy, the University at Buffalo held a ceremony on October 12, 1987, formally renaming the Engineering East building as Gregory B. Jarvis Hall. At this event, Jarvis’s widow presented the university with a commemorative plaque from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the still-intact UB flag her husband took with him on the Challenger. When asked about taking the UB flag into space, Jarvis once remarked, “I thought [UB] was a great school. It was academically challenging and rewarding. This is a small token I can perform for the way they unlocked my future.” Today, that flag, which marks a poignant moment in our nation’s history, has a permanent home in the University Archives.