Charles F. Bolden Jr., the top administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a former astronaut, will give the keynote address at this year’s Mid-Year Commencement ceremony on Saturday at Bradley University.

 The combined undergraduate and graduate ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in the Renaissance Coliseum on the Bradley campus, with the processional beginning at 9:45 a.m.

 “We are honored to have Charles Bolden, Jr., a highly accomplished national public servant, address our students and their families at our Mid-Year Commencement ceremony,” said Bradley President Joanne Glasser. “Mr. Bolden has a long and distinguished career in service to our country and will be a source of inspiration to our students.”

 Bolden, a retired Marine Corps major general, began his duties as NASA administrator on July 17, 2009. He is the first African-American to head the agency on a permanent basis. His 34-year career with the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. He traveled into orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two missions. His flights included deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his flight crew.

 Prior to Bolden’s nomination for the top NASA position, he was chief executive officer of JackandPanther LLC, a small business enterprise offering leadership, military and aerospace consulting services, and motivational speaking.

 Bolden earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical science from the United States Naval Academy in 1968 and a Master of Science in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. Following his graduation from the Naval Academy, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After completing flight training in 1970, he became a naval aviator and flew more than 100 combat missions in Southeast Asia from 1972-1973.

 After returning to the U.S., Bolden served in a variety of positions in the Marine Corps in California and later was assigned to the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Md. He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1980.

 Bolden’s many military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2006.

Bradley is a private, independent university in Peoria, Illinois, offering 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students the choice of more than 100 academic programs. Bradley links academic excellence, experiential learning and leadership development with an entrepreneurial spirit for a world-class education. Students benefit from extensive resources not available at most private colleges and the personal attention not commonly found at large universities.