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NASA's Goldin to speak at MIT's Commencement

Daniel Goldin.
Daniel Goldin.
Photo / Bill Ingalls/NASA

NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, who revitalized the space agency during the post-Cold War era, will be the principal speaker at MIT's Commencement on June 8.

Mr. Goldin, who was named to his position in 1992, is the longest-serving administrator in the history of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, holding the position through four administrations. He is credited with streamlining the agency's bureaucracy and providing a new vision that stressed science and technology while reducing the budget for human space flights. He played a major role in the development of the International Space Station.

"Dan Goldin has been an unusually passionate and effective leader and advocate not only for the exploration of space, but for US technological leadership in general," said President Charles M. Vest, who was chair of the President's Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the International Space Station. "His strength of conviction and perseverance in both advocating support for space science and bringing change to NASA's organization and operations have been remarkable. He is an extraordinary leader who will have interesting and worthwhile messages for our graduates."

"Daniel Goldin is an excellent speaker selection for the first graduating class of the 21st century -- one that will most surely bear witness to fantastic new achievements in space and aeronautics," said Erick Tseng, president of the Class of 2001. "This year's senior class displayed great interest in the Commencement speaker selection process and offered a wide variety of thoughtful suggestions. Theclass' response to Goldin has been very positive. It will be an honor to hear Goldin speak and I look forward to listening to him share his vision of the future and his goals for NASA at the turn of the millennium."

Soulaymane Kachani, president of the Graduate Student Council, said, "Mr. Goldin is a great speaker. He made outstanding contributions to the nation's space program. Many graduate students expressed their delight to have such a great figure as a Commencement speaker. At the Graduate Student Council, we are very pleased with the selection process of Commencement speakers. The mixture of students' input and Commencement committee members' feedback has worked very well. We look forward to continuing this collaborative effort between students and administrators to select the best speakers."

"Dan Goldin brought life sciences onto NASA's center stage. From the Astrobiology Institute and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which he initiated, to the course in biology for all NASA employees, he has changed the face of space research forever," said Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics Laurence R. Young, director of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

During Mr. Goldin's NASA tenure, the cost and time needed to develop spacecraft has been reduced dramatically while the number of missions launched each year has quadrupled. Safety standards and mission capabilities have improved significantly, even with space shuttle costs reduced by 33 percent.

He started the Origins Program to understand the evolution of life on earth and determine if it exists elsewhere. He has been a strong supporter for increased exploration of Mars. Mr. Goldin was also in the forefront of the plan to install a "contact lens" on the Hubble Space Telescope, which resulted in important discoveries of the cosmos.

Last October, Mr. Goldin discussed the future of aerospace at the System Design and Management Lecture Series on Complex Systems. "MIT is at the leading edge and the students in this room will help lead that change," he told a packed Wong Auditorium.

A 1962 mechanical engineering graduate of City College of New York, Mr. Goldin began his career at NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, working on electric propulsion systems for human interplanetary travel. He was vice president and general manager of the TRW Space and Technology Group in California for 25 years before rejoining NASA as the administrator in March 1992. He became the agency's longest-serving director last month, surpassing James Fletcher, who served a total of eight years and 11 months during two terms in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Goldin will be the 33rd person to deliver the MIT Commencement speech since 1951. From 1964-81, Presidents Julius A. Stratton, Howard W. Johnson, Jerome B. Wiesner and Paul E. Gray were the principal speakers.

Recent Commencement speakers have included Hewlett Packard President and CEO Carleton "Carly" S. Fiorina (2000), President William J. Clinton and AIDS researcher David Ho (1998), UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (1997) and Vice President Albert Gore in 1996. Providing a change of pace, MIT alumni Tom and Ray Magliozzi -- better known as Click and Clack on their National Public Radio program "Car Talk," spoke in 1999.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 4, 2001.

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