Another record graduating class is in the offing for Texas A&M University Friday and Saturday (May 15-16).The stage for spring graduation ceremonies for the university’s 10 academic units will be set at the university-wide commencement convocation Thursday evening (May 14) with an address by former astronaut and retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and introduction and welcome by Aggie astronaut Michael Fossum.
More than 5,800 graduation applications have been filed by graduate and undergraduate degree candidates, prompting university officials to predict the previous graduation record – 5,456 set last spring – will be surpassed this year. They note, however, that some applications are normally withdrawn prior to the ceremonies.
“It’s a rare opportunity to have two individuals with space-flight experience on stage and speaking together at any time, other than shortly before or soon after a space mission--especially when one of them is an Aggie and a former member of the Corps of Cadets,” observed Texas A&M President Elsa Murano. “Gen. Bolden’s address is particularly relevant as the entire world celebrates the anniversary of one of science’s crowning achievements – Galileo’s first use of the telescope to look into space 400 years ago.”
Gen. Bolden was a space shuttle pilot astronaut for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for 13 years, flying four space missions, and served as assistant deputy administrator for NASA from April 1992 to June 1993. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May.
Fossum, a 1980 Texas A&M mechanical engineering graduate who carried out space-shuttle missions in 2006 and 2008, is expected to extend special Aggie greetings in addition to introducing fellow space-traveler Bolden.
Bolden and Fossum will speak at 5:30 p.m. at Reed Arena, which will be open to all spring degree candidates and their family members and friends.
Following the commencement convocation, The Association of Former Students and university officials are inviting all graduating students, their families and friends to a fun-filled program titled “The Next Tradition.” The program is intended to welcome all graduating students into the 350,000-member alumni association and inform them of the importance of staying involved with their alma mater after graduation. “The Next Tradition” program will be held at the Student Recreation Center located across the street from Reed Arena.
University officials point out that while plans are moving forward for all the commencement and related activities, health and other personnel are continuing to monitor the current H1N1 flu threat. As a precautionary measure to reduce the spread of the illness, officials strongly encourage degree candidates and their families and friends to stay home and not attend commencement if they have any of the well-publicized flu symptoms.Officials also urge the use of hand sanitizers, which will be available throughout Reed Arena for all commencement events – or those planning to attend should feel free to bring their own.
The first of five Reed Arena commencement ceremonies for undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree candidates will begin at 9 a.m. Friday for the Colleges of Geosciences and Liberal Arts. Also that day, degrees will be awarded to candidates in the Colleges of Architecture and Agriculture and Life Sciences, beginning at 2 p.m., followed by 7 p.m. ceremonies for candidates from the Dwight Look College of Engineering.
Saturday ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. for degree candidates in Mays Business School and undergraduates and master’s degree candidates in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and continue at 2 p.m. for degree candidates in the Colleges of Science and Education and Human Development.
The 2 p.m. commencement will include commissioning ceremonies for approximately 83 members of the Corps of Cadets who will be entering one of the four branches of the armed services as officers. Commissioning will be followed by the Corps of Cadets’ traditional “Final Review” at Kyle Field.
Separate graduation exercises will be heldThursday at 2 p.m. for approximately 117 recipients of the professional Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, with that ceremony to be held in Rudder Auditorium. Commencement speaker for those ceremonies will be Dr. Eleanor M. Green, who took office March 1 as dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Gen. Bolden was assigned as deputy commanding general, 1MEF, Marine Forces, Pacific in 1997 and served as commanding general, 1 MEF (FWD) for Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait from February to June 1998. In July 1998, he was promoted to major general and served as commanding general of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 after 34 and half years of service to his country.
Gen. Bolden is now CEO of JACKandPANTHER LLC, a privately-held military and aerospace consulting firm. Also, he is a director of Marathon Oil Corporation, the Bristow Group Inc. and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Additionally, he is a trustee for the University of Southern California, a director of the Odyssey (Charter) Academy of Galveston and president of the board of the Sickle Cell Association of the Texas Gulf Coast.
He received a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master of science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California. Also, he is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.