Astronaut Mae Jemison to deliver Commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis


Mae Jemison, an engineer, physician and the first woman of color to travel into space, will deliver the 2022 Commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

Martin made the announcement during a toast March 25 in Brookings Quadrangle to members of the Class of 2022, which includes undergraduate, graduate and professional degree candidates.

The university’s 161st Commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, May 20, on Francis Olympic Field on the Danforth Campus.

During the ceremony, Jemison will receive an honorary doctor of science degree. She will address more than 3,400 members of the Class of 2022 and their friends and family members.

“From an early age, science and exploration were passions for Mae Jemison. Through her myriad achievements — physician, astronaut, engineer, entrepreneur, educator, futurist — Dr. Jemison provides a wonderful example for our graduates to take advantage of the possibilities in their future,” Martin said.

“Dr. Jemison is known for breaking barriers as the first woman of color to become a NASA astronaut and to travel into space; as a volunteer physician in developing countries; as founder of two companies; and as creator of an international science camp to increase science literacy,” Martin said.

“Today, she is pioneering and transforming science and technology to enhance the quality of life on Earth while looking toward human travel beyond our solar system. I’m sure our graduates will find inspiration and motivation from her life story,” he added.

During the toast, Martin also announced the two graduating students who were selected to deliver talks during the ceremony. Noor Ryad Ghanam, a candidate for a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Arts & Sciences, was selected by a committee of students, faculty and staff after an application process to be the undergraduate student speaker.

Vijay Ramani, vice provost for graduate education, selected the graduate student speaker: Bryanna Megan Brown. Brown is a candidate for a master of business administration degree from Olin Business School and is a graduate student representative to the university’s Board of Trustees.

Justin Hardy, who graduated in December with degrees in accounting and finance from Olin Business School, will serve as honorary student marshal. Hardy’s determined play for the Bears men’s basketball team while fighting Stage 4 stomach cancer has inspired sports fans at Washington University and across the nation.

Martin announced last September that the annual universitywide Commencement ceremony is permanently moving from its previous location of Brookings Quadrangle to historic Francis Olympic Field. And, starting this year, the ceremony will be followed by a festival stretching from Francis Field on the west end of the Danforth Campus to Tisch Park on the east end. The festival will feature lawn games, live entertainment and food from St. Louis eateries.

For more information about the ceremony, visit the Commencement website.

About Mae C. Jemison

Mae C. Jemison leads 100 Year Starship (100YSS), a bold, far-reaching nonprofit initiative to assure the capabilities exist for human travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next 100 years. Jemison is building a multifaceted global community to foster the cultural, scientific, social and technical commitment, support and financial framework to accomplish the 100YSS vision of “An Inclusive, Audacious Journey (that) Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond.”

The 100YSS programs include an annual public conference, NEXUS-Pathway to the Stars: Footprints on Earth; the Canopus Awards for Excellence in Interstellar Writing; the 100YSS Crucibles-Invitation only, transdisciplinary workshops to generate new disciplines to disrupt technological and systemic hurdles; and 100YSS True Books to engage elementary students. 

The 100YSS Way Research Institute seeks to generate the radical leaps that accelerate knowledge, technology, design and thinking not just for space travel, but to enhance life on Earth. Jemison led the team that won the competitive, single awardee seed funding grant in February 2012 from the premiere research agency the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Jemison, the first woman of color in the world to go into space, served six years as a NASA astronaut. Aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-47 Spacelab J mission in September 1992, she performed experiments in material science, life sciences and human adaptation to weightlessness.

Jemison started The Jemison Group Inc. (JG) a technology consulting firm integrating critical socio-cultural issues into the design of engineering and science projects, such as satellite technology for health care delivery and solar dish Stirling engine electricity in developing countries.

As an environmental studies professor at Dartmouth College, Jemison worked on sustainable development and technology design, particularly for the developing world. Before joining NASA, she was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia and a general practice physician in Los Angeles.

In 1994, Jemison founded the international science camp The Earth We Share™ (TEWS) for 12- to 16-year-old students from around the world, a program of the nonprofit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. 

Jemison is Bayer Corp. USA’s national science literacy ambassador. She is one of the series hosts for National Geographic’s “One Strange Rock” and space operations adviser for its global miniseries “Mars.”

A member of the National Academy of Medicine, she has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame, among many other honors.

Jemison is an author of several children’s books, including “Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from My Life” True Books series on space exploration. She was the first real astronaut to appear on the “Star Trek” TV series and is a LEGO figurine in the LEGO Women of NASA kit.

She earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering and fulfilled the requirements for a bachelor of arts in African and Afro-American studies from Stanford University. She earned a doctor of medicine degree from Cornell University.

Washington University has welcomed Jemison to campus on two other occasions. In 2005, she delivered an Assembly Series lecture, “Exploring the Frontiers of Science and Human Potential,” and in 2015, she participated in Engineers Week, sponsored by the McKelvey School of Engineering.

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