Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first woman of color in space, leader of the 100-Year Starship organization, and founder and president of the Jemison Group and BioSentient Corp., was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University’s spring 2022 Commencement on Saturday, May 14.
The degree was awarded for “her steadfast dedication to sustainable development and technology for the developing world, for her leadership and foresight in the pursuit of human interstellar space travel, and for her achievement as the first woman of color to travel into space.”
Jemison spoke about nature and the changing world that the graduates are heading out into.
“Graduation is a time of transition, it is moving from one definable phase of your life to the next, and taking your place in a greater world. But right now, the world that you are entering is undergoing not just subtle changes, but upheaval and instabilities, that may have immutable, lasting changes and consequences for untold decades to come,” Jemison.
She went on to say, “there’s an amazing amount of hope. When I talk to people, and they say ‘I want the world to be better,’ that’s hope that we have to work with. We are part of nature, we’re not outside of it.”
Jemison spoke of her time in space, when she looked out the window and saw how beautiful planet Earth was and something struck her. “When people say ‘Save the Earth’ they’re mistaken. The Earth will always be here. This planet that warms us and cools us and provides us with all kinds of sights, smells, and sounds will be here. But we might not be here if we continue to treat it in a way that it develops an atmosphere and environment that is not habitable for our lifeform.”
In closing, Jemison told the graduates that when things get rough, they should go outside and look up. “Just go outside sometimes and look up at the clouds and stars and allow yourself to wonder what they were, just as you did when you were a child. Look up at the stars and wonder how we’re connected to the universe.”
Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut and in 1992 was the first woman of color to travel into space. Aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-47 Spacelab J mission, she was NASA’s first science mission specialist to perform experiments in material science, life sciences and human adaptation to weightlessness.
She currently leads 100 Year Starship, a nonprofit initiative to assure the capabilities exist for human travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next 100 years, and led the team that won the competitive, single-awardee seed funding grant for 100YSS from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Jemison is founder of the Jemison Group Inc., a technology consulting firm integrating critical socio-cultural issues into the design of engineering and science projects, such as satellite technology for health care delivery and solar-powered Stirling engine electricity in developing countries. The Jemison Group explores and develops stand-alone science and technology companies like BioSentient Corporation, a medical devices and services company founded by Jemison and focused on improving health and human performance.
She is the founder of the international science camp The Earth We Share, for 12- to 16-year-old students from around the world, a program of the non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence.
Jemison is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and serves on the boards of directors of Kimberly-Clark, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, and the Texas Medical Center.
She is an inductee of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame, Texas Science Hall of Fame, International Space Hall of Fame as well as a recipient of the National Organization for Women’s Intrepid Award, the Kilby Science Award and the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Directorship 100 most influential people in the boardroom.
Jemison is the Bayer Corporation USA’s national science literacy ambassador, a host for National Geographic’s “One Strange Rock” TV series, and space operations advisor for its global miniseries “Mars.”
She is the author of the children’s book Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from My Life, the first astronaut to appear on the Star Trek TV series, and a minifigure in the LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set.
Before joining NASA, Jemison was the Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia, and a general practice physician in Los Angeles. She has also served as a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.
Jemison received her doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University and her bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Stanford University, where she also fulfilled the requirements for a bachelor of arts in African and Afro-American studies.