Former NASA Chief to Address Commencement

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden Jr., NASA's former administrator, who has long ties to the UA, attended the successful launch of the agency’s UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission.
Feb. 20, 2017
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The UA's 153rd Commencement ceremony will be held May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

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Former NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden (Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA)
Former NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden (Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA)

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden Jr., who has traveled into orbit and also ushered NASA into a new era of space exploration while serving as head of the agency, has been named the University of Arizona's Commencement speaker.  

Bolden was nominated by former U.S. President Barack Obama to serve as the 12th administrator of NASA, becoming the first African-American to hold the office. After confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Bolden began his post in 2009 and retired in January.

A visionary who has advanced efforts toward human settlements in space, Bolden also has 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," said Bolden, who will speak during the UA's 153rd Commencement on May 12 at 7:30 p.m. 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.

"I'm quite excited to be able to visit with our partners here at the University of Arizona and to be able to meet, first hand, with members of our OSIRIS-REx team and share their anticipation of the coming rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu and the eventual return of samples to Earth," Bolden said.

While at NASA, Bolden led the agency's major transition from decades of space shuttle missions to a significant focus on expanded development of space and aeronautics technology and full utilization of the International Space Station.

The agency's activities under Bolden included an unprecedented landing on Mars with the Curiosity rover, launch of a spacecraft to Jupiter and enhancement of the nation's fleet of Earth-observing satellites. NASA also has seen continued progress toward the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope — successor to the Hubble Space Telescope — which was assembled with UA knowledge and technology, such as the Near Infrared Camera.

"I am incredibly pleased that Gen. Bolden will speak at the University of Arizona's 2017 Commencement," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "His leadership has been crucial for NASA's future and its partnership with the University. I am very much looking forward to welcoming him to Tucson, and I am thrilled that our graduates will have the opportunity to hear from him and learn from his experience. This will be a wonderful way to send off the Class of 2017."

Bolden, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, where he served as a naval aviator, flying more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

In 1997, Bolden was assigned as the deputy commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the Pacific, and later served as the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego from 2000 to 2002.

Over the span of his 34-year career with the Marine Corps, Bolden spent 14 years serving as a member of NASA's Astronaut Office, during which time he flew into orbit four times between 1986 and 1994, commanding two missions and piloting two others.

He retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006.

Under Bolden's leadership, NASA's support of commercial space transportation systems for reaching low-Earth orbit enabled commercial cargo resupply of the space station and has furthered efforts to allow U.S. companies to launch astronauts.

Bolden also has supported NASA's contributions toward developing cleaner, faster and quieter airplanes.

Prior to his nomination to serve as NASA administrator, Bolden was chief executive officer of Jack and Panther LLC, a business enterprise providing leadership, military and aerospace consulting. Bolden earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical science in 1968 from the Naval Academy and a Master of Science in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977.