First Iranian In Space To Speak At UVU’s 72nd Commencement Ceremony
March 11, 2013
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Kaitlyn Tolman (801) 863-8208
Utah Valley University announces the selection of Anousheh Ansari as the speaker for its 72nd Commencement, slated for April 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the UCCU Center.
On Sept. 18, 2006, Ansari accomplished her lifelong dream and made history by becoming the first Iranian in space and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station. She was the fourth self-funded space tourist. Her travel encouraged her to become what she calls a “space ambassador,” creating public awareness about the virtues of space exploration and inspiring youth to pursue their dreams.
“It is an honor to have Anousheh Ansari address the graduating class of UVU,” said UVU President Matthew S. Holland. “She has established herself as a steadfast advocate for the advancement of science and technology. Her hard work and dedication to following her dreams is an inspiration, and we are excited to share her vision with our students.”
Ansari immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1984 as a teenager who did not speak English. She went on to become a successful engineer, co-founding and serving as CEO and chairwoman of Telecom Technologies, Inc., which merged with Sonus Networks in 2000. Ansari also co-founded Prodea Systems and is currently the company’s chairwoman.
A passionate social entrepreneur and active proponent of world-changing technologies, Ansari actively encourages youths to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and founded the What If Prize competition, designed to spark interest in space science by encouraging middle school students to use their imagination for innovative ideas. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the X Prize Foundation, which supports radical breakthroughs by creating and managing large-scale prize competitions. In 2004, her family sponsored the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space. She will participate in a panel called “Crowd-Sourcing the Space Frontier” at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conferences and festivals in Austin, Texas, in a couple of weeks.
This fall, Ansari’s memoir, “My Dream of Stars,” will be presented as one of the books in UVU’s annual Freshman Reading Program. The reading program, fostered by President Holland, aims to emphasize the connection between reading and intellectual development. Students are invited to read the selected books before classes start in August, participate in book-related activities throughout the school year, and attend a book discussion with Holland at his home.
Ansari received her bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University and her master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. She will be presented with an honorary doctorate of science from UVU during the Commencement proceedings.
UVU will award three additional honorary degrees to outstanding individuals at the annual Commencement ceremony. Doris Buffett, whose decision to give away the bulk of her fortune led her to establish the Sunshine Lady Foundation, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Through her foundation, Buffett has invested over $100 million in organizations that advance education and promote the well being of disadvantaged people. She has helped countless women at UVU to succeed through her philanthropic efforts.
Janette Hales Beckham, 10th president of the Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former member of the Utah House of Representatives, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Beckham, a passionate supporter of education, was awarded the UVU Distinguished Service Award in 2011 and has served on the Board of Trustees for UVU, BYU and the LDS Church Educational System.
David G. Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, will be awarded an honorary doctorate of business. Neeleman is a serial entrepreneur who has created three commercial airlines, including Morris Air, which was acquired by Southwest Airlines, and Azul Brazilian Airlines. He is known for his frenetic energy and optimism and his unwavering dedication to customer service.
“Each year we choose community members and leaders that represent and promote the values that UVU embraces,” said President Holland. “Doris, Janette, David and Anousheh each provide a model for those characteristics and show UVU students and graduates the importance of following their dreams. We are very proud to have them join the UVU family.”
Utah Valley University is located in Orem, Utah, and is home to more than 30,000 students. UVU began as a vocational school during World War II, and in the seven decades since has evolved into a technical school, community school, state college and, finally, a comprehensive regional teaching university. UVU is one of Utah’s largest institutions of higher learning and offers programs ranging from career training to high-demand master degrees, with emphasis on undergraduate education.