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University of Arizona commencement to feature ex-NASA chief’s keynote address

(Instagram Photo)

A former astronaut who led NASA and helped the University of Arizona with an asteroid-search mission will be the featured commencement speaker Friday.

Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden Jr. will also receive an honorary degree, the university announced. The graduation program was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.

Bolden retired from the Marine Corps and ran NASA during most of President Barack Obama’s administration. He was the agency’s 12th administrator and the first African-American in the post.

(NASA Photo)

(NASA Photo)

He consulted with UA’s planetary science department team on OSIRIS-REx, a spacecraft tasked with bringing back a sample of a specific asteroid.

“I am incredibly pleased that Gen. Bolden will speak at the University of Arizona’s 2017 commencement,” school President Ann Weaver Hart said in a February press release.

“His leadership has been crucial for NASA’s future and its partnership with the university.”

Nearly 4,000 graduating undergraduate and graduate students were expected to receive their degrees. About 40,000 guests were expected to watch the proceedings.

Bolden spent 14 years as an astronaut and flew four space shuttle missions in the 1980s through the mid-1990s, including the first joint U.S.-Russia shuttle mission.

Back on Earth, high for graduation day was expected to be in the low 90s, with coolest temperature around 63 degrees. Rain was not in the forecast.

The school said water would be provided for students who were marching.

Students were scheduled to begin gathering near the Main Library at 5:30 p.m.

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