Neil deGrasse Tyson to speak at commencement Saturday

World-renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will give the commencement address at Rice University’s 100th graduation ceremony May 11.

The ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Academic Quad (or Tudor Fieldhouse if the weather doesn’t cooperate). To view the webcast, click here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. He has served on federal commissions on the U.S. aerospace industry and on space exploration policy and has received NASA’s highest award given to a nongovernment citizen for public service. Time magazine has included Tyson on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The author of the New York Times best-seller “Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries,” Tyson tweets to more than 1.2 million followers and is host of “StarTalk Radio.”

Born and raised in New York City, Tyson was 9 years old the night he saw the Milky Way with “such clarity and majesty” at Hayden Planetarium’s sky theater in Manhattan that he knew he had been called to be an astrophysicist. “The study of the universe would be my career, and no force on Earth would stop me,” Tyson wrote in his memoir, “The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist.”

He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1976 and then earned a B.A. in physics from Harvard University, an M.A. in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin and M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in astrophysics from Columbia University.

After working as a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Department of Astrophysics, Tyson in 1994 became a staff scientist at Hayden Planetarium, where he has been director since May 1996. He also founded AMNH’s Department of Astrophysics, where he is a research associate.

With research interests in star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies and the structure of the Milky Way, Tyson is currently working on a 21st-century remake of Carl Sagan’s landmark TV series, “Cosmos,” which will air in 2014.

In recognition of his public appreciation of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid “13123 Tyson.”

Among the other books that Tyson has authored are “The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet” and his latest, “Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.”

Tyson said he is honored to deliver Rice’s commencement address just after the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s famous “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech given at Rice Stadium. “That speech not only established space exploration as a national goal, it forged space exploration as a national identity and secured Rice University and Houston’s Manned Space Flight facility (later, Johnson Space Center) as the birthplace of that era,” Tyson said. “My wife (Alice Young ’79) happens to be a graduate of Rice, in physics, and so this trip will also serve as a homecoming for her.”

Rice will present an award in Tyson’s name to a graduating student whose work best serves the issues represented by the commencement speaker.

Preceding Saturday’s degree ceremony will be Friday night’s Class of 2013 Convocation, the Shepherd School of Music Presidential Concert and a presidential reception for students, their guests, faculty, staff, administration and friends. Those events begin at 8 p.m. in Alice Pratt Brown Hall and will be followed by a fireworks display in the Rice Stadium parking lot around 10 p.m.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.