Former NASA administrator delivers College of Engineering commencement address

May 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than 1,400 students received their baccalaureate degrees at the Penn State College of Engineering’s spring commencement exercises on May 3 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

This year’s commencement address was given by Charles F. Bolden Jr., former NASA administrator and current president and chief executive officer of The Bolden Consulting Group LLC.

In his address, titled “Humanity’s Journey of Discovery,” Bolden explained that there is a big handoff about to take place – the handoff from his generation to class of 2019’s generation.

“Our planet has a very big ‘help wanted’ sign on it – and we’re counting on your generation,” he said. “We’re counting on you to cure the previously incurable … to tackle big challenges like climate change … to teach us to live as one people on this beautiful planet. We’re counting on you to lead humanity’s journey of discovery.”

He offered five pieces of advice for graduates as they cross the “graduation bridge” – the passage from classroom to career.

Emphasizing the importance of teamwork, Bolden said, “Your success is not only about the work you do, but how you do it. It’s also about with whom you work.”

He then asked the graduates to give a standing ovation and round of applause for their family members and friends who have stood by them and traveled near and far to be with them today.

“Don’t let a day pass that you don’t approach someone who means a lot to you and thank them for just being themselves and for helping you be you,” he said.

Bolden then advised graduates to be bold, to be fearless, to dream big, and not to listen to anyone who says you can’t do something or you don’t belong. “Especially for the women and minorities in the class: don’t waste your time trying to explain yourself or your identity to anyone. Don’t feel like you have to justify why you are where you are,” he said. “This applies to the workplace or anywhere else.”

His last two pieces of advice were to never stop reaching for new heights, even if you don’t know exactly what they look like or what they will be, and to not be afraid of failure.

“Even the very best of us get lost and falter sometimes and anyone who tells you they know exactly where we are headed probably isn’t being straight with you,” Bolden shared.

He ended his address by saying, “I believe that your generation, with your passion to succeed, will take us to a better place … and in the finest Penn State tradition, you’ll do it by dancing, dreaming, discovering, drawing, inventing, creating, thinking, playing, writing, running, healing, and imagining your way into the future. You’ll make this a better world because you are Penn State!”

Download Bolden’s entire commencement address.

Last Updated May 03, 2019