Over 1,000 Eagles Take Flight at Daytona Beach Campus Spring Commencement

Angel Thomas
One of the 1,026 Embry-Riddle graduates to earn diplomas Monday, May 9, in Daytona Beach, Florida, was Angel Thomas, who transcended incredible odds in her personal life to become president of her graduating class. (Photos: Embry-Riddle/Joey Harrison)

A total of 1,026 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students earned degrees in the Daytona Beach Campus commencement ceremony Monday, May 9, including 876 undergraduates, 140 master’s students and 10 doctoral students. Twenty-nine ROTC cadets commissioned into the U.S. Army at the event; 36 commissioned into the Air Force; 14 into the Navy; nine into the Marines; and one into the U.S. Space Force.

The Honorable Charles F. Bolden Jr.
The Honorable Charles F. Bolden Jr, former NASA administrator who delivered the keynote address at the Daytona Beach Campus commencement ceremony, was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler and Embry-Riddle Trustee Janet Kavandi. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/Joey Harrison)

“You have gained foundational strengths as a person, as a leader,” Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D., told graduates at the ceremony. “As you move forward, be confident in your ability to succeed.”

Butler reminded graduates that the knowledge they have acquired at Embry-Riddle “goes well beyond the technical skills you picked up in the classroom.”

The Honorable Charles F. Bolden Jr, former NASA administrator and U.S. Marine Corps Major General, gave the keynote speech at the  undergraduate commencement ceremony. During his career as an astronaut, Bolden flew on four space shuttle missions, logging over 680 hours in space. He piloted Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986 and Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990 – the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. He also served as commander on Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1992, and Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994. In President Butler’s introduction of Bolden, he called him “a tireless champion for our nation’s security and prosperity, as well as environmental sustainability.”

In his address, Bolden called on the graduates to rise to today’s "unprecedented" challenges.

Students hold up degrees
A total of 1,026 Daytona Beach Campus students earned degrees Monday, May 9. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/Joey Harrison)

“Our planet has a very big help-wanted sign on it,” said Bolden, “and we’re counting on your generation to cure previously incurable disease, to tackle big challenges like climate change, to teach us to live as one people on this incredibly beautiful planet, to lead humanity’s journey of discovery.”

He counseled the graduates to step into whatever roles they have prepared for, adding, “by all means, don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do something or you don’t belong.”

“I believe that your generation, with your passion to succeed,” Bolden said, “will take us to a better place, a place worthy of the planet I’ve been blessed to see from space, where its serenity and lack of borders belies the truth of what sometimes happens here on the ground.”

Class president and Aeronautics graduate Angel Thomas, whose success is particularly poignant because she was abandoned as a baby and almost died in her first hours of life, told her fellow graduates, “While your past is part of you, it’s never going to be something that defines you. No matter what happens, keep pushing, work hard and stick to your values,” Thomas said. “We have the power to make life exactly what we want it to be.”

Aerospace Physiology graduate Chloe Crichton received this year’s Excellence in Academics, Leadership and Service Award. Grace Robertson, who earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering, took home the John C. Adams, Jr. Community Service Award.