November 19, 2018

Music and theater played roles in ‘First Man’ Neil Armstrong’s time at Purdue

Armstrong program The program from Nov. 19, 1954 Varsity Varieties program at Purdue, featuring a musical co-directed by Neil Armstrong. The organization misspelled Armstrong’s name on the program. (Neil A. Armstrong papers, courtesy of Purdue University Archives)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Still wondering about that musical that “First Man” Neil Armstrong co-directed while in college?

Space fans who enjoy Armstrong trivia can walk away from the biopic with a new tidbit on his time as a student at Purdue University.

A scene in the movie shows Armstrong having a conversation about a student musical that he co-directed.

The musical, “La Fing Stock,” was co-created by Kappa Kappa Gamma and Phi Delta Theta and was co-directed by Armstrong and Purdue student Betsy Wooldridge. The musical was a satire on college honoraries and was performed during the Nov. 19, 1954 Varsity Varieties, a program sponsored by the Purdue Student Union.

It was not Armstrong’s first time with arts and music while on campus.

Armstrong set The set of “La Fing Stock” – co-directed by Neil Armstrong while he was a student at Purdue. (Neil A. Armstrong papers, courtesy of Purdue University Archives)

He was a member of the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band in 1952 where he played the baritone horn.

“People are often surprised to find out that he played in the band and was the musical director at his fraternity,” said Tracy Grimm, associate head of Archives and Special Collections and the Barron Hilton Archivist for Flight and Space Exploration.

“We often place people in boxes on what they were famous for,” said Grimm. “When you look through his papers, you are able to see the whole person. He was so musical, technical and had great attention to detail. He was a very well-rounded person.”

Armstrong earned a bachelor's degree from Purdue in aeronautical engineering in 1955 and received an honorary doctorate in engineering from Purdue in 1970.

Purdue has launched a photo gallery highlighting the relationship between Armstrong and his alma mater. The gallery includes more than two dozen photos of Armstrong during his student life at Purdue, his time in NASA, his moon landing, his visits to Purdue and the legacy he leaves behind.

Because of Armstrong’s moon landing and his legacy, Giant Leaps is the name of Purdue’s Sesquicentennial campaign. The year will highlight Purdue’s remarkable history of giant leaps, while focusing on what giant leaps the university can take to address the world’s problems. 

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, 

Source: Tracy Grimm, 496-2941, 

Note to Journalists: Please note that Neil Armstrong’s name is misspelled as Neal on the Variety program.

Related website:

Neil Armstrong gallery 

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