Air University presents honorary doctorate to NASA chief
NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr., left, and Lt. Gen. Allen Peck, Air University commander, enter the degree conferral ceremony at Maxwell AFB, Ala. Mr. Bolden received an Air University honorary doctor of science Nov. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/Wendy Simonds)
by Carl Bergquist
AU Public Affairs
11/16/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Air University Commander Lt. Gen. Allen Peck conferred the University's third honorary Doctorate of Science degree on retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. during a ceremony Monday.
General Bolden, the current administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, flew more than 100 missions during the Vietnam War before joining NASA in 1980. Following his fourth space shuttle mission in 1994, he returned to active duty as deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and retired in 2003 as the Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. In 2006, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
General Peck noted that General Bolden has distinguished himself throughout his military career and as administrator of NASA. He has also taken time to visit schools to encourage young students to achieve their academic potential.
"He has attributed much of his success to an academic discipline instilled in him by his parents," General Peck said. "Administrator Bolden, you have truly been an inspiration for those who seek to reach the stars."
General Bolden, who has been an Eagle at two of Air Command and Staff College's Gathering of Eagles, said it was a pleasure to be back at Air University, and he is appreciative of the honor Air University bestowed upon him.
"Believe it or not, it is humbling to be here, and I'm quite honored. Thank you so much for this," he said. "I do credit my mom and dad for making me everything I am. My parents were life-long educators, and I know they are pleased as they look down from their eternal resting place."
General Bolden said NASA is steadily increasing its investment in aeronautics, and he hopes young people will be "awed and inspired" by what is going on there now and what it wants to do in the future.
He later visited Maxwell's Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration, or STARBASE, class, an educational program for fifth-graders that stresses mathematics and science.
"I tell students if they want to be an astronaut, they should study math and science and there will be a job at NASA for them," he said. "We at NASA are embarking on a path with big ideas we hope will be good for the nation and the world. Those who think of NASA as only rockets and space missions might be surprised at how deep our thinking runs."
General Bolden said NASA never knows what importance its technology will have on the world. He said space exploration is "not only cool but creates the programs of tomorrow," and it leads to deeper friendships around the world.
"It is truly good to see so many service members from so many branches and officers from more than 75 nations of the world here today," he said. "At NASA, we have 15 nations who have participated in the space station and space shuttle programs, and they have created a model for global cooperation. To the international officers I say, I truly hope NASA will be working with each of your countries in the future. When you look down at the Earth from space, somehow, borders don't seem so important."
General Bolden said NASA's future looks bright, and President Barack Obama has asked the administration to indicate what needs to be done now for the future. He said he feels that is the right attitude because some of the coming NASA missions will take years to develop and accomplish.
"NASA wants to send astronauts to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. We also want to look at our home planet and develop the next generation of flight systems," he said. "The future is being created right now, and I'm truly proud that NASA's work stretches beyond our borders. I think the things we have coming will truly amaze everyone."
General Bolden said one of his primary missions at NASA will be establishing better communications among the many agencies and companies involved. He said he doesn't want to see supervisors just talking down the chain of command but talking up the chain as well. He said with so many commercial companies working with the administration, NASA is seeing a totally different paradigm, and that differs from the days when NASA wanted to control everything.
On a final note to service members attending the event, the general said conflict is easy if no one is at risk and there is no price to pay. He said in the current world, however, that isn't the case, and military members are at risk. For that he thanked them for their service.
"Everyone in uniform wears that uniform proudly, and everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. I commend you for that," General Bolden said.
The previous Air University honorary degree recipients include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008, and retired Air Force Col. Frank Borman, also an astronaut, in 2009.
Air University is the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force as it prepares students to develop, employ, command, research, and champion air, space and cyberspace power at all levels. Air University's colleges and schools provide the full spectrum of Air Force education, including degree granting and professional continuing education for officers, enlisted and civilian personnel throughout their careers. Air University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. For more information on Air University, visit www.au.af.mil.