Commencement Speaker is Former NASA Chief

University Communications

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden Jr., who has traveled into orbit and who ushered NASA into a new era of space exploration, is the University of Arizona’s 2017 commencement speaker.  

Bill Ingalls/NASA photo

A visionary who advanced efforts toward human settlements in space, Bolden, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, also led NASA in developing the Space Launch System rocket — slated to become the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built — and the agency’s Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to deep space destinations such as asteroids and Mars.

“It has been my distinct honor and privilege to serve with the incredible NASA family, where we worked every day to make life better for all humankind,” says Bolden, who will speak during the UA’s 153rd Commencement at 7:30 p.m. on May 12 in Arizona Stadium.

One of the last space launches Bolden attended as NASA’s administrator was in September for the agency’s UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission, which successfully launched a spacecraft toward the asteroid Bennu as part of a sample return operation.

Bolden’s connections to the UA are long-standing, given the University’s relationship with NASA and significant contributions to advancements in planetary sciences.

Bolden was the 12th administrator of NASA, serving from 2009-16. He was the first African-American to hold the office.