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COLUMBUS -- John Glenn, a former astronaut and U.S. senator from Ohio, initially was reluctant to involve himself in the attempted passage of a bill designating Feb. 20 of each year to recognize the anniversary of his historic 1962 orbit of the Earth.
But then he changed his mind.
"If this can be used to encourage some of our young people into their own interests of academia, and staying in school, and using their own talents and capabilities in their own direction, then the whole thing is worth it," said Mr. Glenn, now 90.
With his wife, Annie, by his side, he watched as Gov. John Kasich signed the bill in a Statehouse ceremony Friday.
Feb. 20 will be designated "John Glenn Friendship 7 Day" in honor of the astronaut and the spacecraft that made him the first American to orbit the planet, half a century ago.
Later, at the age of 77, he returned to space as part of a research mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
"We still lead the world in higher education, but we're behind already in K-12, and that does not bode well for the future," said Mr. Glenn.
"So if we can do something like this commemorative day and bring some attention to some of the possibilities of this country, particularly for our kids, then the whole thing is worth it."
E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, where the school of public affairs bears Mr. Glenn's name, said of Mr. Glenn, "He is a man of extraordinary courage, extraordinary ability, and a true American hero."
The university plans to honor Mr. Glenn with a dinner to raise money for the public affairs school, college of engineering, and scholarships in those disciplines.