Former NASA administrator to give College of Engineering's commencement address


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Charles F. Bolden Jr., president and chief executive officer of The Bolden Consulting Group LLC, will deliver the spring commencement address at the Penn State College of Engineering baccalaureate degree ceremony at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, May 3, at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University Park.

His speech is titled “Humanity’s Journey of Discovery.”

Bolden received his bachelor’s degree in electrical science from the United States Naval Academy and his master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Bolden to be the 12th National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator, a position Bolden held until 2017. While heading NASA, Bolden oversaw the transition from 30 years of space shuttle missions to a new era of exploration focused on full utilization of the International Space Station and aeronautics technology development.

He led the development of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion crew capsule and created NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the technology that will make future exploration missions successful. Bolden also supported the agency’s goal of developing airplanes that can travel faster, farther, quieter and greener than ever before.

Bolden had a distinguished 34-year military career. In 1968, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, and after completing flight training in 1970, he became a naval aviator. He flew more than 100 combat missions during the Vietnam War and later served as a test pilot for the Naval Air Test Center’s Systems Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates. He last served as commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, before retiring from the Marine Corps as major general in 2003.

Bolden’s military career also included 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. After joining the office in 1980 and becoming an astronaut in 1981, he traveled into orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, logging more than 680 hours in space.

He piloted Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986 and Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990 — the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. He also served as mission commander on Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1992 and Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994. Bolden was chief of the Safety and Mission Assurance Office at the Johnson Space Center in the wake of 1986’s Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Bolden’s military and NASA decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, three NASA Exceptional Service Medals and four NASA Space Flight Medals. He received the Rotary National Space Trophy in 2014 and holds honorary doctoral degrees from numerous institutions of higher education. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2016.

In addition to his current role at The Bolden Consulting Group LLC, Bolden serves as a science envoy for space for the U.S. Department of State and is a member of the board of directors for LORD Corporation, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

“Charles Bolden Jr.’s career exemplifies the diversity of career options one can have with an engineering degree, and we are honored to have him join us for this exciting day for our students,” said Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, Penn State. “From his wartime service and his remarkable career at NASA, Bolden is a true American hero, and I am sure he will inspire our students, their families and friends, as well as our faculty, to have greater impact on our world.”

More than 1,500 engineering students are expected to receive their baccalaureate degrees from the College of Engineering.

Those who are unable to attend the College of Engineering’s commencement at the Bryce Jordan Center may stream the event live by visiting Penn State’s Commencement Live Stream page.


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Chris Spallino

charles bolden

Charles F. Bolden Jr.

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