Amid all the commencement ceremonies taking place at colleges across the country, one particular commemoration on Friday featured a guest who was literally out of this world.
Purdue University granted NASA astronaut and alumnus Andrew J. “Drew” Feustel an honorary doctorate during its spring commencement ceremonies, which was connected live to the International Space Station as it circled about 250 miles above Earth.
“Boilermakers are known for making Giant Leaps for the benefit of humankind, from Neil Armstrong’s historic first step on the moon to today’s plant scientists helping feed the world’s growing population," Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said in a news release. "Drew Feustel’s courage on behalf of our nation as he works to make the next Giant Leap in space science and exploration gives us all much to be proud of."
While a Purdue dean typically places a ceremonial hood on honorary degree recipients, fellow alum and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, who is also stationed on the ISS, had to stand in and place the hood on Feustel due to obvious logistical challenges.
“For me, after community college, there was no other choice but Purdue, the only university I applied to, hoping and now knowing that that decision would change my life and set me on a path to the stars,” Feustel told graduates.
Feustel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in solid earth sciences in 1989 and a master’s degree in geophysics from Purdue in 1991, has spent 80 days in space, including 51 days on his third mission. The Purdue alum is a veteran of three NASA spaceflights, and is currently assigned aboard the ISS until October.
"As the adventure unfolds, I hope you look back on Purdue the way I do, with fond memories of the good and challenging times," Feustel said. "You have earned your right to walk the stage and I wish you all the chance to fly among the stars professionally and for some of you, personally."
Purdue has graduated 24 NASA astronauts and, by the end of 2018, Purdue astronauts will have spent the equivalent of more than 1,100 days in space.