NASA Administrator, South Carolina native, and veteran astronaut Major General Charles Bolden will address a record number of Anderson University graduates during commencement exercises on Saturday, May 2, on the front lawn of the University at 10 a.m.
A 1968 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Bolden became a Marine Aviator and test pilot. He later became a NASA astronaut in August of 1981. A veteran of four space flights, Bolden logged more than 680 hours in space and piloted Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, launching the SATCOM Ku band satellite, and Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, deploying the Hubble Telescope.
Bolden was the first person to ride the Launch Complex 39 slidewire baskets which enable rapid escape from a Space Shuttle on the launch pad. The need for a human test was determined following a launch abort where controllers were afraid to order the crew to use the untested escape system.
In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Bolden to be administrator of NASA. Bolden has overseen the post-shuttle transition at NASA toward farther-reaching scientific goals, the ultimate of which is eventually landing astronauts on Mars. He was confirmed by the Senate on July 15,2009 and is the first African American to hold the post on a permanent basis.
His abilities extend beyond the military and scientific realms. A few years before his appointment to be Administrator of NASA, Bolden auditioned along with professional actors, for the role of “virtual host” for NASA’s “Shuttle Launch Experience” educational attraction at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. Aside from his experience with NASA, Bolden won the role based on his performance onscreen.
He was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina and graduated from C.A. Johnson High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical science from the United States Naval Academy in 1968, and a Master of Science in Systems Management from The University of Southern California in 1977. He is also a Vietnam veteran, having flown more than 100 sorties in North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. He holds honorary doctorates from University of South Carolina, Winthrop College, Johnson C. Smith University, Monmouth University, Maryland University College, and University of Bristol. He has received the University of Southern California Alumni Award of Merit and the National Space Trophy.
He resides in Houston, Texas and is married to Alexis Walker of Columbia, South Carolina, and the couple has two children, Anthony Che and Kelly Michelle.
411 diplomas will be conferred at graduation exercises, including the first two doctoral degrees (Doctor of Ministry) awarded in Anderson University history. 45 master’s degrees will also be awarded. This will be the seventh consecutive record graduating class at AU, named last year by The Chronicle of Higher Education as the eighteenth fastest growing regional college in America.
In the event of rain, commencement will be held at NewSpring Church off Highway 81 in Anderson.