Former astronaut to speak at graduation

Students graduating in December can look forward to an out-of-this-world commencement speech from Charles F. Bolden, the top administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and former astronaut.

“Bradley always seeks out nationally distinguished speakers to offer inspiring and relevant words for graduates and their families at commencement,” said Shelley Epstein, Associate Vice President for Communications. “Administrator Bolden has had an outstanding career in the military, as an astronaut and now as the NASA administrator, and we look forward to an uplifting and memorable message at commencement.”

Bolden is a retired Marine Corps general, and he began his career with NASA in 2009. He is the first African-American to head the agency on a permanent basis.

While in the Marines, Bolden was a member of NASA’s astronaut office for 14 years. Between 1986 and 1994, he traveled into orbit four times around the space shuttles and commanded two missions.

With a successful career in the Marines, Bolden earned several military decorations, including the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006.

Epstein said Bolden was chosen to give the keynote address by various university constituencies, including students.

“Administrator Bolden was selected because of his impressive background and the important message he can present,” Epstein said. “With an academic background in engineering and a deep interest in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education, Administrator Bolden is an excellent fit for the Bradley community.”

Senior sports communication major Jackson Junker said he’s excited to hear Bolden’s speech.

“I feel like Bradley got it right with this commencement speaker,” he said. “Charles Bolden is very accomplished, and I feel lucky to be able to hear some of his stories.”

Other students said they are looking forward to Bolden’s stories as well.

“I’m extremely thrilled that Charles Bolden will be speaking at commencement this year,” said senior business administration major Brittany Kloss. “It will be enlightening to hear his words of wisdom as well as his experiences as a successful leader at NASA. I’m sure I will learn a few valuable insights that I can take away as I begin my career.”

Senior public relations major Ryan Austin said he would like to hear Bolden share insight with the graduates.

“I am excited to hear what Bolden has to say,” he said. “He has an impressive list of achievements, and it must have taken a great deal of hard work and dedication to get to where he’s at now. Hopefully he can share some of those tips on how to accomplish your goals and follow your dreams.”

Epstein said he hopes students will react positively and enthusiastically to Bolden’s speech.

“He is a true American hero and the university is looking forward to bringing him to campus for commencement,” he said.

Bolden’s keynote address will take place at the Mid-Year Commencement ceremony on Dec. 15 in the Renaissance Coliseum. The combined undergraduate and graduate ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., with the processional beginning at 9:45 a.m.