By Frank Radosevich II
December 15, 2012
Speaking at the University’s Midyear Commencement, NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. presented Bradley graduates with their next mission—reach for the stars, both figuratively and literally.
Bolden, a former astronaut and decorated U.S. Marine, encouraged the graduates to take initiative in their lives and not let opportunities pass them by. He served as the keynote speaker for commencement, which saw more than 300 undergraduates and graduates receive their degrees at the Renaissance Coliseum.
“Bradley class of 2012, NASA needs your vision,” Bolden told the audience. “Make your lives ones of action; not reaction. … This is your mission.”
He praised Bradley for its emphasis on STEM education, saying NASA and the country would need scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to lead new missions. He also noted the University’s many connections with the space agency, citing the work of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ’71 and Dr. Iqbal Shareef, professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, who worked as a faculty fellow with NASA.
Before Bolden’s speech, President Joanne Glasser told the graduates of a different astronaut who began his career on the Hilltop. She described the story of Major Robert H. Lawrence ’56, a chemistry graduate who became the first African-American astronaut only to die tragically in a flight accident on Dec. 8, 1967.
A talented and driven leader, Lawrence represented the great heights a Bradley graduate can achieve after leaving the University, Glasser said.
“Now I am not suggesting that you have to blast off into space to make a difference. You don’t even have to break barriers that Robert Lawrence faced,” Glasser said. “But make no mistake; you have within you the power to reach for your own stars.”
At the ceremony graduating students were already eyeing the horizon that awaits them.
Katie Evans received her professional master of arts in environmental science education. A high school math teacher in Washington, Ill., Evans said the program has greatly improved her teaching career.
“This has changed my teaching for the better. I’ve learned how to reflect, how to teach based on inquiry,” she said.
The day also featured alumnus Doug Garner ’63 who graduated but never participated in a ceremony because a fire that gutted Bradley Hall postponed his graduation day in January 1963. Garner, who left Peoria to work in St. Louis and later on his family farm in Iowa, said, after years of waiting, it was finally time to don a cap and gown and walk across the stage.
“As I got closer to 50 years, graduation came to mind. Then I just decided to do it,” he said before the ceremony. “Now, I’ve done it.”