Astronaut Nicole Stott, who spent four months on the International Space Station last year, has accepted St. Petersburg College’s invitation to deliver the commencement address at graduation ceremonies at Tropicana Field on May 8.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Nicole Stott has agreed to speak at our spring commencement exercises, and we are looking forward to her visit with great anticipation,” said Acting President Tom Furlong. “We will be presenting her with an honorary degree at that time.”
Stott’s employer, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), also had to approve her appearance, which they did last week. Since Stott is already in training for another Space Shuttle mission, that approval was not a sure thing.
A former SPC student, Stott was enthusiastic about visiting the college and made her desires known to NASA.
“I would be honored to do it,” Stott said in an e-mail to the college in January after the invitation was offered by Furlong.
Stott grew up in Clearwater and graduated from Clearwater High School. She attended SPC (then SPJC) in the early 1980s because she wanted to learn how to fly and the college offered an aviation program that interested her.
“When I got out of high school I knew I wanted to do something connected to flying, but I really didn’t know exactly what,” she said in an interview for last summer’s issue of SPC Today, the magazine of SPC’s alumni association. “At Clearwater High they had an introduction to aviation course, and through that I learned about the degree program at SPJC.”
Although Stott went on to earn an engineering degree at Embry Riddle and didn’t graduate from SPJC, she has remained enthusiastic about the college and remembers her time here with fondness. She even offered to carry an SPC banner on her space mission, which she did. She photographed the banner over a Space Station porthole and e-mailed the photo to SPC after her return.
She is expected to present the banner to SPC during her visit.
Details of her daylong visit are now being negotiated.