Astronauts to receive TTU's first honorary doctorates at commencement May 5

Tennessee Tech University will have two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 5, in Hooper Eblen Center.

With an increasing number of graduates and guests, TTU began having two spring commencement ceremonies a couple of years ago. In all, nearly 1,300 students will receive degrees Saturday, May 5.

Graduates of the colleges of Agricultural and Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences, and Business will participate in a ceremony that begins at 9:30 a.m., as will graduates of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies.

The commencement ceremony for graduates of the colleges of Education and Engineering will begin at 2 p.m.

Each commencement will mark a first for the university, the awarding of honorary doctorates. Presiding over his final commencements, TTU President Robert Bell will present honorary doctorates to two TTU alumni, retired NASA astronaut and scientist Dr. Roger Crouch and U.S. Navy pilot and astronaut Capt. Barry Wilmore. 

“Wilmore and Crouch are TTU graduates who have distinguished themselves among all mankind, and they have done it superbly,” said Bell. “I can’t think of any two individuals who are better suited to receive the first honorary doctorates from TTU.”

thumb roger_crouchCrouch will accept his honorary doctorate and address graduates during the morning ceremony.

A native of Jamestown, Tenn., Crouch earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in 1962 and master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He was a visiting scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1979 to 1980.

Crouch has done research on semiconductor crystal growth, electrical and optical properties of materials, electronic devices for remote sensing and flat panel displays, and heat shield protection for reentry space vehicles, resulting in more than 60 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals.

As the chief scientist for the Microgravity Sciences program for NASA, he established the research program for the space shuttle and the pioneering work on the International Space Station in the 1980s and 1990s. He helped organize and co-chaired Microgravity Science Working Groups between NASA and space agencies from the European Space Agency, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Russia.

In addition, Crouch served as program scientist on five Spacelab flights in the 1990s. Selected for flight on the Microgravity Science Laboratory mission in 1997, he carried out research aboard space shuttle Columbia on the STS 83 and STS 94 missions. He took a CD into space with the names of about 70,000 TTU students, alumni, faculty, staff and donors.

thumb barry_wilmoreWilmore will accept his honorary doctorate during the afternoon ceremony and deliver the commencement address.

Born in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Wilmore grew up in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at TTU; he also has a master’s degree in aviation systems from The University of Tennessee.

Wilmore is a graduate of the United States Naval Test Pilot School; he has accumulated more than 6,400 flight hours and completed 663 carrier landings, all in tactical jet aircraft. He has completed four operational deployments, flying the A-7E and FA-18 aircraft from the decks of the USS Forrestal, USS Kennedy, USS Enterprise and USS Eisenhower aircraft carriers, including combat operations during Operation Desert Storm operating from the deck of the USS Kennedy.

Selected as a pilot by NASA in July 2000, Wilmore completed two years of training and evaluation before taking technical duty assignments. He represented the astronaut office on all propulsion systems issues, including the space shuttle main engines, solid rocket motor and external tank. He supported launch and landing operations at Kennedy Space Center.

In 2009, Wilmore piloted his first Atlantis flight to the International Space Station. He has logged more than 259 hours in space. When Atlantis took its final flight of the space shuttle program in July 2011, Wilmore talked the astronauts through launch and landing as the Ascent/Entry Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) in mission control.

Wilmore was recently assigned as commander of the International Space Station (ISS) for Expedition 42, which is currently scheduled for launch aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket in the fall of 2014. As commander of Expedition 42, Wilmore is scheduled to spend six months in space aboard ISS.

Crouch and Wilmore are among the nearly 73,400 alumni of Tennessee Tech. There are TTU alumni from every state in the U.S., along with 112 other countries and territories.

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