Charles F. Bolden Jr., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s top official, will deliver the graduation address this spring at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

A retired two-star general, Bolden will speak May 18 to graduates in the Hytche Athletic Center. He’ll receive the UMES Presidential Medal in recognition of his service as a military veteran and astronaut.

Bolden, 65, became NASA’s 12th administrator when the U.S. Senate confirmed him in July 2009, marking his second tour of duty with the nation’s space agency.
Fourteen of his 34 years in the U.S. Marine Corps were spent with NASA’s Astronaut Office, which enabled him to fly aboard space shuttles four times between 1986 and 1994. He commanded two of those missions. His assignments included deploying the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew.

Bolden’s participation in UMES’ graduation program is important to the university because it is nurturing an engineering program, which includes an aviation science degree, and also collaborates on projects with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

The son of educators, Bolden accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, where in 1968 he earned an electrical science degree and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After completing flight training, the Columbia, S.C. native flew more than 100 combat missions in North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1972-to-1973.

When he returned to the U.S., Bolden earned a master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. While assigned to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to work in aviation testing, he was named an astronaut candidate in 1980.

Bolden held a number of other key positions at the agency he now heads. After his final space flight, he returned to active duty as Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. He also served in the Pacific, including as Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Japan, in the Middle East and as Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. He retired in 2003.

Bolden’s military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inducted him in May 2006.