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New Needham school to be named after Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams

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Sunita Williams is a Needham High School graduate

Sunita Williams (Courtesy of NASA)

A new elementary school in Needham, Massachusetts, will be named after Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams, who holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.

Last week, the school committee voted to rename the new Central Avenue building, which will replace the Hillside School as the Sunita L. Williams Elementary School, Patch.com reported.

“There is something exciting for me for naming the school after Sunita Williams. I think we’re trying to promote STEM or STEAM in our schools. She brings a lot of diversity in terms of our naming, and she’s a product of our schools,” committee member Susan Neckes told patch.com.

Committee member Aaron Pressman told the website that Williams was a highly inspiring choice for the younger generation and noted that she has not been recognized in Needham.

Another name proposed by the naming subcommittee for the school was of Leslie Cutler, a former Needham selectwoman and a member of Massachusetts Senate, but the finals decision was in favor of William’s name.

According to a Needham Wicked Local report, the committee members are not sure when the school’s construction would begin, but it is slated to be finished by 2019.

The 51-year-old Williams is a Needham High School graduate, Class of 1983, and daughter of Indian American neuroanatomist Deepak Pandya and Slovene American Ursuline Bonnie Pandya. She made seven spacewalks with a total time of 50 hours and 40 minutes and has spent a total of 322 days in space.

Williams is currently working with SpaceX and Boeing on commercial spaceflight.