Former Astronaut to Address Graduates at Spring Commencement

By Mark Wilcox


Michigan Technological University commencement ceremonies will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 4, 2019. Former astronaut and combat fighter pilot Gregory H. Johnson will address the graduates.

Former astronaut Gregory H. Johnson will address more than 1,000 graduates at Michigan Technological University’s Spring Commencement Saturday, May 4.

Lt. Col. Gregory H. Johnson (USAF Ret.) is a former test pilot and has logged more than 60 combat missions in the Middle East as a fighter pilot with the US Air Force. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Johnson also has a Master of Science in Flight Structures Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA from the University of Texas.

An Outer Space Endeavour

In 1998, NASA selected Johnson for its astronaut program. After years of rigorous training, he was selected in 2006 to pilot the Space Shuttle Endeavour on a mission to assemble the International Space Station (ISS). That mission launched March 2008. Three years later, Johnson piloted Endeavour’s final flight to the ISS, the second to last space shuttle flight ever. He has spent more than 31 days in space, orbited the Earth nearly 500 times and traveled more than 12.5 million miles.

Johnson said he is looking forward to addressing Michigan Tech’s graduates. “I am honored and excited to share in the graduation celebration of Tech’s Class of 2019,” he said, adding that he was extremely impressed with the high quality of curriculum, faculty and students when he visited campus last year.

Johnson lives part time in Traverse City, Michigan, where he is an aerospace and youth development consultant for Newton’s Road, a non-profit company that works with regional partners to support and increase access to learning opportunities in STEM. He is also managing director of the Traverse City Space Accelerator.

A Love Letter to Michigan Tech

Generally, when a dozen Michigan Tech graduates get together, it would be considered an alumni event. However, for this Spring’s student speaker, it would be considered a family reunion. When Monica Brechting receives her BS in Mechanical Engineering Saturday, she will be the 12th member of her family to graduate from Michigan Tech.

Raised on a farm that has been in her family for a century and a half, Brechting said she likes working with her hands, so “engineering made sense to me.” About her speech, Brechting said, “This is my love letter to Michigan Tech. It takes a unique person to thrive here, but if you’re that type of person, you’ll fall in love. I wrote this speech because it’s the speech I wanted to hear.”

Brechting is an honors student and has been active at St. Albert the Great University Parish, played piccolo in the Huskies Pep Band and was a member of the Robotics System Enterprise as team lead for her Capstone project, an underwater soil sampler. She also served as president of the Michigan Tech Chapter of Silver Wings, a national organization dedicated to creating proactive, knowledgeable and effective civic leaders through community service and education about national defense.

Devotion to Duty

New military officers will be commissioned at ceremonies prior to commencement. In services at the Rozsa Center, eight cadets from Tech’s Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC), six from the Army and two from the Air Force will be commissioned. The new officers will receive their diplomas and take the Oath of Office during commencement.

Michigan Tech’s Spring Commencement will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday May 4, in the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in the Student Development Complex.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Last Modified 2:59 PM, October 3, 2022