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UTSI Grad and Wife Back in Coffee County After Katrina Flatten Mississippi House

Paul Gloyer, an aeronautical engineer, and his artist wife Connie Dorris Gloyer are back in Coffee County, sorting out the pieces after Katrina destroyed their house in Waveland, Miss.

Sadness over their loss is offset by their knowledge that they easily could have been in the house on Sunday, Aug. 28, when wind and waves shattered it. They would have been in the thick of the storm had they followed their plans, Paul says, adding, “But God said ‘no.’”

From Topeka, Kansas, Paul earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at The University of Tennessee Space Institute in 1993 with Roger Crawford as his major professor and did considerable work toward a Ph.D. with Gary A. Flandro before leaving the Institute in 1995. He and Connie married in Tullahoma and lived in Estill Springs before leaving the area.

Recently he worked for Aero-Astro Company before buying out the firm’s rocket lab and going into high technology business for himself as a partner with Zach Taylor of California. Connie, daughter of Francis Dorris and the late Harold Dorris of Hillsboro, painted murals for the Marine Life Mainline Oceanarium in Gulfport, which also was wiped out in the storm. Doctors thought that her mother, who now lives in Chattanooga, had cancer, so Connie flew there to be with her. After tests, it was determined that Mrs. Dorris had an ulcer, not cancer, so Paul rented a mini-van – since his car was being repaired – and headed to Chattanooga on Friday morning before the hurricane.

“It was only a category one at that time, so I planned to bring Connie home on Sunday. By Saturday, it was a category five hurricane, and the next day it demolished our house, which was on the water side of the railroad, a long block from the beach.

“Our house was 18 feet above sea level and storm waves surged 40 feet high. Our church, nearby, is 35 feet above sea level and took five feet of water. Diana, our cat, and our bird Jen took refuge inside the church and survived. A brand new rocket engine was in our garage. I have since retrieved it. We’ve loaded five mini-vans with our stuff so far. I almost left my laptop at home, but I’m a workaholic, so I took it with me to Chattanooga.”

Paul and Connie set up a tent across the road from the wreckage of their house. Their friend James Cleghorn, a fellow graduate of UTSI and an Air Force major in Nebraska, flew down and helped with the clean-up. News reporters “pestered us a lot,” Paul said, noting that he appeared on Fox news several times.

The couple is staying in a Manchester motel while they contemplate the future. Encouraged by Professor Flandro, Paul is considering finishing his Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering. “I feel led to come back,” he says.