Catherine Coleman to be Choate Commencement Speaker

Photo from NASA

Former NASA astronaut Dr. Catherine “Cady” Coleman will deliver the commencement speech on Sunday, May 28, as announced by Headmaster Dr. Alex Curtis.

Known as the woman who played the flute in space, former NASA astronaut Dr. Catherine “Cady” Coleman will deliver the commencement speech on Sunday, May 28, as announced by Headmaster Dr. Alex Curtis this Wednesday during the sixth form meeting.

In his announcement, Dr. Curtis referred to Dr. Coleman as an inspirational figure and an embodiment of two essential values of the Choate community — innovation and international collaboration.

Dr. Coleman earned a B.S. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, after graduation, served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. Later, she earned a Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Her career as an astronaut began when NASA selected her to join its Astronaut Corps in 1992, she went on to serve in a myriad of roles, including Chief of Robotics. Dr. Coleman has taken three trips to space. For six months, she lived aboard the International Space Station.

Aside from her scientific exploits, Dr. Coleman enjoys playing the flute and playing in a band, Bandella, with several other astronauts. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Hollywood Science Fiction Museum, and served as a consultant to Sandra Bullock for her Oscar-nominated performance in the 2013 film Gravity.

“I love that she is coming to speak this year,” said Hadalee Goodman ’17. “With a graduation speaker, you want someone who is inspirational and who will set the tone for you for the next four years. Even though it’s cheesy to say this, she did reach the stars.”

Other students were disappointed with the idea of a scientist speaking at commencement. Edward Rakphongphairoj ’17 said, “It’s interesting, but I don’t want to learn about science during graduation, and not everyone is here at school for science.”

“I was hoping for someone a little more relatable,” Kate Moore ’17 said. “But I’m really glad that Choate is getting such a strong, confident female to come and speak to us. I think it promotes a really great message.”

Choate has become known for a range of commencement speakers in recent years, and every spring seniors anxiously await Dr. Curtis’s announcement. Last year, TV personality and former National Football League star Michael Strahan addressed graduates. In 2015, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ’82 delivered the talk, and in 2013 comedian Seth Meyers was the commencement speaker.

“I was hoping for an entertainer,” Jamie Hemstock ’17 said. “You’re sitting there and sweating, and you don’t necessarily want to hear about someone’s accomplishments. There are some people who love space, but everyone loves laughing.”

This year, graduation will be held on May 28, on the lawn behind Archbold. The administration recently moved the start time up by a half hour from recent years, to 9:30 a.m., a change senior officers hope will keep attendees out of the midday heat.

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