Skip to main content

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Entrepreneur and Astronaut Mae Jemison To Receive Honorary Degree at Rensselaer

May 1, 2007

Entrepreneur and Astronaut Mae Jemison To Receive Honorary Degree at Rensselaer

TROY, N.Y. — Mae Jemison, founder of two technology companies and the first African American female astronaut to travel to space, will receive an honorary degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s 201st Commencement on May 19 at 9:30 a.m. on the Harkness Field.

Jemison joins two other honorary degree recipients: Thomas L. Friedman, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times; and pioneering producer Don Hewitt, best known as the creator of the weekly CBS-TV news program 60 Minutes. Friedman will deliver the 2007 Commencement address. 

“Dr. Jemison’s prolific achievements have helped to advance our understanding of space and the Earth’s resources. As an advocate of science and technology, she has focused on improving the status, quality, and image of the scientist,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Dr. Jemison’s story of her personal journey can inspire others to pursue endeavors that they never before imagined. We are honored to have her participate in Rensselaer’s 201st Commencement along with Thomas Friedman and Don Hewitt as they inspire our new graduates to change the world.”

Jemison founded the Jemison Group Inc. in March 1993, in an effort to address the benefits of integrating science and technology in everyday life, especially for developing countries. Company projects have included: consulting on the design and implementation of solar thermal electricity generation systems for developing countries and remote areas, and the use of satellite-based telecommunications to facilitate health care delivery in West Africa. 

A strong, committed national voice for science literacy, Jemison founded in 1994 The Earth We Share™ (TEWS), an annual international science camp where students, ages 12 to 16, work together to solve current global dilemmas. The four-week residential program builds critical thinking and problem-solving skills through an experiential curriculum. She also serves as chair for the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence and serves as Bayer Corporation’s national advocate for the Making Science Make Sense initiative.

In 1999, Jemison launched a second technology company, BioScientient Corporation, a Houston-based medical devices and services start-up focused on improving health and human performance through physiological awareness and self-regulation. The company is involved in the design, development, and marketing of leading-edge, patented ambulatory equipment that provides wireless, real-time, real-life multi-parameter physiologic monitoring and the means to control one’s responses to their environment and stimuli.

In addition to her groundbreaking roles as astronaut and entrepreneur, Jemison is also a medical doctor, former medical missionary to West Africa, a linguist, and television broadcaster. As an author, her first publication, Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life, is an autobiographical account written especially for teenagers. In the book, Jemison shares anecdotal experiences about growing up on the south side of Chicago, cultivating her aspiration to be a scientist, her experiences as a medical student in Africa, and her history-making journey into space. 

Jemison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame; Texas Science Hall of Fame; Texas Women’s Hall of Fame; National Medical Association Hall of Fame; and the Kilby Science Award, among others. She has delivered a presentation to the United Nations on the uses of space technology, hosted and consulted on the Discovery channel series “World of Wonder,” appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and was the subject of the PBS documentary The New Explorers. In 1993, Jemison was chosen as one of People Magazine’s “World’s 50 Most Beautiful People,” and in 1999 she was selected as one of the top seven women leaders in a presidential ballot national straw poll.

Jemison received a B.S. degree chemical engineering from Stanford University, while also fulfilling the requirements for a A.B in African-American studies. She attended medical school and received a Doctor of Medicine degree from Cornell University.

A noted lecturer, Jemison speaks nationally and internationally on science literacy, sustainable development and technology design, education, achieving excellence, the importance of increased participation of women and minorities in science and technology fields, and investing in the present to secure the future.

In 2004, Jemison delivered the keynote address during the Women of Diversity – Entrepreneurship Symposium sponsored by Rensselaer’s Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at the Lally School of Management and Technology. The symposium features distinguished leaders who are making their marks on higher education, business, government, and the international landscape. The annual symposium is part of the Severino Center’s effort to spark the interest of young women to pursue entrepreneurial ventures and careers in science, engineering, and technology.

Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050
E-mail: otitij@rpi.edu