University of Wisconsin’s winter commencement speaker, announced Wednesday evening, has had such an accomplished career that he was once played by Tom Hanks in an Academy Award-winning movie.
Capt. James Lovell is not only a retired Navy Captain but one of only 24 people to go to the moon and back, logging more than 700 hours in space before retiring as an astronaut in 1973.
The Academy Award winning movie “Apollo 13” is based off of Lovell’s book, “Lost Moon: the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13.” It’s his own account of the most precarious of his four missions to the moon between 1965 and 1970.
Lovell attended UW for two years, going through the university’s Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps before being accepted to the United States Naval Academy. He graduated from the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1952, according to a UW statement.
During the selection process for the winter commencement speaker, senior class president Andre Hunter said he and other class officers wanted someone who embodied the Wisconsin Idea.
“He asked that all Badgers take their skills, experiences and memories that have been made at this university and spread them across the state,” Hunter said.
As a Badger himself, Hunter said Lovell embodied just that.
Lovell, Hunter said, has physically gone above and beyond that calling to spread the Wisconsin Idea across the world.
“We felt that he could give the life-changing charge to the graduates and ignite the Wisconsin Idea within all those receiving a degree,” Hunter said.
Lovell will not only be ushering UW winter 2016 graduates onto the next chapter of their lives, but he will receive a distinction of his own.
Lovell was nominated to receive an honorary degree from UW for the 2016 Spring Commencement, but was unable to accept the honor at the time, David McDonald, professor of history and former chair of the Committee on Honorary Degrees, said.
McDonald said he was delighted when he heard Lovell was selected by the student body’s senior class officers to be this winter’s commencement speaker.
UW honorary degrees, McDonald said, are distinct from honorary degrees awarded at other universities.
Most honorary degrees recognize single accomplishments in a career, McDonald said.
By contrast, McDonald said, UW’s honorary degree adheres more closely to the Wisconsin Idea, emphasizing that professional success be complimented by commitment to improving the life of one’s community beyond one’s field of work.
Katie Couric announced as spring commencement speakerSeeking a person that embodied notoriety, success and philanthropy, the University of Wisconsin’s senior class officers chose Katie Couric as Read…
McDonald said Lovell’s commitment to civic engagement has been evident through his involvement with the Council for Physical Fitness and Sports, the National Eagle Scout Association and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation made him the perfect candidate for the honorary degree.
Lovell has also been honored with awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, two Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Laureate of the Order of Lincoln (Illinois’ highest honor) and UW’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Any student who completed a degree over the summer or who will complete a degree this fall can participate in winter commencement, which will be held at the Kohl Center Sunday Dec. 18.