Astronaut will deliver message to UMFK graduates

FORT KENT, Maine — The University of Maine at Fort Kent announced that astronaut George D. Nelson, PhD, will be the keynote speaker for the 135th commencement ceremony held on May 13, 2017, at 1 p.m. in the UMFK Sports Center.

Nelson is an emeritus director of science, mathematics, and technology education and a full professor of physics and astronomy at Western Washington University. From 1996-2001, he served as the director of Project 2061 and senior staff at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and from 1989-2006 he was associate vice provost for research and associate professor of astronomy at the University of Washington.

“Dr. Nelson is an extraordinary individual and we are so fortunate to have him speak at commencement,” said UMFK President Dr. John Short. “He has had a remarkable career; he has experienced things that we can only dream of.”

From 1978 to 1989, Nelson was a NASA astronaut and flew as a mission specialist on three Space Shuttle missions. During these missions, he performed an untethered spacewalk, and the first on-orbit satellite repair. He was a member of the first crew to go into space after the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

His current research is focused on education reform and the preparation of mathematics and science teachers.

Nelson has received many honors and awards, including the NASA medal for Exceptional Engineering Achievement and the Faculty Outstanding Service Award from Western Washington University. He is an elected member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the AAAS, and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2009.

He earned his bachelor of science degree in physics from Harvey Mudd College and his master’s and doctorate in astronomy from the University of Washington.

He lives in Bellingham, Wash., with his wife, Susan.

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