Designer of Mars Lander

Last July, space enthusiasts across the globe were dazzled by new photographs of Mars—the first taken in more than 20 years. One man who found the photographs especially gratifying was Brian Okerlund, bishop of the Littlerock Ward, Palmdale California Stake.

As lead designer of the Mars lander, Brother Okerlund was instrumental in the success of the Pathfinder mission. He was involved in the lander’s original design work and, with 14 other designers, helped ensure that the lander’s components, including the camera, were properly positioned.

The work “was pretty fast paced,” he says of the three-year project. “We had to use a good design team to get it done in that amount of time.”

Brother Okerlund, a Brigham Young University graduate in design technology, has worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, for more than 14 years. He is currently working on the MLS, or microwave limb sounder—an earth-orbiting satellite that will study the ozone layer.

He says his experience of working with one of man’s landmark inventions has only increased his awe for the Savior’s creations. “When you see how small this thing actually is on the surface of Mars—the whole lander is shorter than I am when it’s folded up—it’s pretty insignificant to the things that the Lord has been able to create,” he says.

Musical Ambassador

Singer Susan Brownfield recently spent nearly three weeks performing concerts and teaching classes in Vietnam, her native country, by invitation of the Vietnamese government.

Early in 1997, Susan, a master’s candidate in voice performance at Boston’s New England Conservatory, was invited by Ngo Quang Xuan, Vietnamese ambassador to the United Nations, to perform at the Hanoi National Conservatory of Music. The New England Conservatory agreed to send Susan as a “musical ambassador” to the country, where she met dignitaries including Vuoung Thinh, Vietnamese minister of culture and information. She performed in conservatories in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and taught classes to undergraduate musicians.

Born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1972, Susan left Vietnam with her mother in 1975, days before their city was taken over by the North Vietnamese army. She became interested in music early in life while singing Primary songs taught to her by a family friend who was a Latter-day Saint. Her family joined the Church in 1983, and a few years later, at the age of 14, Susan began her musical training in earnest.

She says of her recent experience in Vietnam, “It was a wonderful opportunity for me to travel in a new capacity to the land where I was born, representing my school and, in the eyes of the people there, the United States.” Her mother, Tra Brownfield, served as her interpreter during the trip.

Before recently leaving Boston to perform with the Broadway touring production of The King and I, Susan served in the Relief Society presidency of the Revere Second Branch in the Boston Massachusetts Stake.Curtis Nordstrom, Boston, Massachusetts

Helping Hands

Church members in Burley, Idaho, proved the adage that many hands make for a lighter—and quicker—load when they helped relocate an elementary school and a hospital.

Working in three shifts, almost 200 volunteers from the Burley Fifth Ward, Burley Idaho West Stake, volunteered time, vehicles, and helping hands to move everything from desks to paper clips from the condemned Southwest School to the recently vacated Mountain View School. Latter-day Saint volunteers were met at the Mountain View School by additional volunteers, who unloaded vans and filled classrooms.

With so many willing to help, the work went quickly. “I expected we’d be able to move only six or seven rooms during the day, but by noon we had almost all the Southwest School rooms emptied of the major things,” said school secretary Jan Manning, who coordinated the efforts of volunteers and teachers.

The Burley Fifth Ward Relief Society brought lunch, and ward youth tended children for the volunteers. “It was a real success as a ward,” said Laurie McMillan, a member of the ward activities committee, which helped organize the service project.

Stake members offered further service when they helped move Cassia Memorial Hospital into the newly constructed Cassia Regional Hospital. Under the direction of hospital personnel, stake members bustled in and out every major entrance of the hospital, loading trucks throughout the day.

“We try to do service projects all the time,” Sister McMillan said. “We had a new school and a new hospital, so this was a great opportunity.”

Hollywood Hairstylist

For 30 years Dorothy Andre was a stuntwoman in Hollywood, where she doubled for Olivia de Havilland in Robin Hood and appeared in epics such as The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah. Now a freelance hairstylist, Sister Andre took home an Emmy award—her second—last September for her work on a television musical, Mrs. Santa Claus. The movie first aired in December 1996.

“The material was a period piece, so everything had to be like it was in 1910,” she explains. “We used a lot of hats and haircuts of the time.” She shared the Emmy, awarded for best hairstyling for a movie of the week and/or special, with two other hairstylists. All three stylists worked on the principal actors in the movie and then, in the time left over, worked on the extras. Sister Andre was responsible for some of the dancers’ and the extras’ wigs.

Sister Andre has been involved with show business all her life. Her parents were in vaudeville, and her mother occasionally doubled in movies.

A member of the Church since 1972, Sister Andre’s Church membership makes her something of an anomaly in her line of work. “I end up eventually telling almost everybody I talk to that I’m LDS,” she says. “When they offer me coffee, tea, or alcohol, I say, ‘No thank you, I’m a Mormon.’ I’m not afraid to talk to people about my church.”

She is a member of the Mint Canyon Ward, Santa Clarita California Stake.

In the Spotlight

  • Jonathan Gardner, chief executive officer at the Tucson, Arizona, Veterans Administration Medical Center, was selected by the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States to receive the 1997 Ray E. Brown Award. The national award was given in recognition of his achievements in health-care management. Brother Gardner is second counselor in the Vail Ward bishopric, Tucson Arizona Rincon Stake.

  • Rollin Hotchkiss, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the recipient of the national James M. Robbins Excellence in Teaching Award. He was honored by Chi Epsilon, a civil engineering student honorary society. Brother Hotchkiss is a member of the Lincoln Fourth Ward, Lincoln Nebraska Stake.