University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
November 16, 2010
Contact: Jennifer Z. Ekman, USA Public Relations, (251) 460-6360

First African-American to Walk in Space to Address
USA Fall Commencement on Dec. 18
Ceremony set for 2 p.m. at Mitchell Center

Kenny Sylvester and grandson, Brian
Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr., an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and businessman

Defining himself as a "dreamer who believes nothing is impossible," Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr., an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and businessman, will give the University of South Alabama's Fall 2010 Commencement address on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m., at the USA Mitchell Center. The ceremony marks the beginning for 1,646 graduates, bringing the total number of degrees awarded in USA's history to 68,843.

At the fall commencement ceremony, USA will award 1,023 bachelor's degrees, 567 master's degrees, 11 educational specialists and 45 doctorate degrees. Fall commencement is the graduation exercise for students who completed degree requirements in both the summer and fall terms.

Dr. Harris currently serves as president of The Harris Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization he founded to develop math/science education and crime prevention programs for America's youth. Because he credits his personal achievements to self-empowerment and self-determination, he uses this foundation to inspire young people that they can do anything, if they only set their mind to it.

Following medical school and residency at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Harris completed a National Research Council Fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center in 1987. He then joined NASA Johnson Space Center as a clinical scientist and flight surgeon, specializing in the study of space adaptation and the development of countermeasures for extended duration space flight.

In 1990, Dr. Harris was selected by NASA for the astronaut program. He was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1993. In 1995, he served as a payload commander on the first flight of the joint Russian-American Space Program, also aboard the shuttle. On this flight, Dr. Harris realized a childhood dream by becoming the first African-American to walk in space, and he conducted the first telemedicine conference from space with the Mayo Clinic. When he left NASA in 1996, he had logged more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space.

Dr. Harris is currently chief executive officer and managing partner of Vesalius Ventures, Inc., a venture capital firm that invests in early- to mid-stage healthcare technologies and companies.

Currently, he is on the board of the National Math and Science Initiative, and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's Board of Scientific Counselors. In addition, he was a senior consultant for NASA Aerospace Safety Panel, member of the NASA Biological and Physical Sciences Committee, Council for the NIH National Institute for Deafness and Communications Disorders, and the National Academies Institute of Medicine.

He holds several faculty appointments including associate professor in internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Additionally, he is the author and co-author of numerous scientific publications.

A native Texan born in 1956, Dr. Harris earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, a Master of Medical Science from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston and a Doctorate of Medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, a National Research Council Fellowship in Endocrinology at the NASA Ames Research Center and trained as a Flight Surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base.

He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from Stony Brook University, Morehouse School of Medicine, New Jersey Institute of Technology and University of Hartford. Dr. Harris has also been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Award of Merit, and was the recipient of the 2000 Horatio Alger Award.

Married with one child, Dr. Harris resides in Houston, Texas with his family.

Parking and Shuttle Info:

For graduating students, there will be reserved parking in the parking lot located behind the Mitchell College of Business on Jaguar Drive. Admittance to the Physical Education Building is limited to graduating students only.

Handicapped parking will be limited but is available for students, family and friends. Entrance to this parking lot will be from Old Shell Road only (behind the Mitchell Center). Proper tags must be visible for access to this lot.

Since Stadium Drive is closed due to construction, guests should enter from University Blvd. onto South Drive or North Drive.

Parking signs are posted throughout the campus and shuttle service is available if you park in the posted areas. Directional parking signs will be displayed.

The shuttle service will run from noon - 6 p.m.

Shuttle pickup and drop-off points are University Commons, Gamma Dorm parking lot, Humanities Building parking lot, Administration parking lot, Jaguar Drive, and the parking lot east of the Computer Science Building.


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