From Mechanical Trades to a Global Career with NASA
How Thomas Keating, Jr. ’47 found success
When Milton and Catherine Hershey created the Hershey Industrial School (now Milton Hershey School) in 1909, they established their goals for students in the Deed of Trust. They wanted students to be instructed in multiple branches of education, so they could succeed in a trade and find a useful occupation.
See how one alumnus used the education he received at MHS to find a life-changing career with NASA.
A Passion for Mechanical Trades
Thomas Keating, Jr. ’47 discovered his passion for mechanical trades at MHS. During his time at the school, he excelled in science and math and studied in the school’s electrical vocation shop. He was a well-rounded student, serving as an assistant editor of the Acropolis yearbook, playing in the band, and participating in farmhome baseball.
Using these skills, Thomas went on to work for NASA on satellite tracking systems after graduation. He served in the newly formed Air Force (formerly U.S. Army Air Corps) and then attended Georgia Middle College and Georgia Institute of Technology where he received an electrical engineering degree. After working for a physics lab, Keating joined the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
He spent his entire 37-year career at NASA.
During his time at NASA, Keating worked with satellite-tracking ground stations and was involved with developing the Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network which took him to Alaska, Hawaii, Chile, Australia, Russia, Madagascar, and other exotic locations. The last part of his NASA career was dedicated to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) project, a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency NASDA to measure and quantify tropical rainfall.
As the project’s study manager and systems engineer, Thomas worked on the conceptual design, build, and launch of the near-earth satellite. He served as the liaison officer between NASA and the Japanese Space Agency, earned numerous exceptional service awards for the project, and was called the “Father of TRMM” by the Goddard Retirees Alumni Association.
He was known as the go-to guy for any TRMM mission questions and delayed his retirement until the satellite was launched. Asked to be the U.S. representative for the launch, Keating ignited the launch sequence from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on Nov. 27, 1997—a fitting culmination of his professional career.
Although Thomas Keating, Jr. passed away in 2012, the educational foundation he received in the electrical shop of the Hershey Industrial School led to a contribution that benefitted the entire world.
Career and Technical Education Today
At Milton Hershey School, students of all ages continue to benefit from hands-on learning and specialized classes that prepare them for careers and trades of their choice. Learn more about our Career and Technical Education program.
Satellite photos courtesy of NASA/TRMM.