Commencement 2020 Keynote Speaker

Dear Tulane Community:

Commencement is the culmination and pinnacle of the academic year. It is a time to celebrate past achievements and bright futures – a moment when the university community, families and friends gather to honor our graduates. Each class is remarkable in its own way, but few have endured and overcome the level of disruption that the Class of 2020 experienced as the first Tulane class in a century to graduate during a global pandemic.

Besides health concerns and numerous other challenges, including having to finish their final semester remotely, the more than 3,500 members of the Class of 2020 did not have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Tulane Commencement. Instead, we saluted them remotely in May of 2020 with a special TUgether: Connecting the Class of 2020 celebration. This event featured great New Orleans music, inspiring student speeches and celebrity shout-outs from Ellen DeGeneres, Madeleine Albright, Drew Brees, Hoda Kotb, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Jon Batiste, Tim Cook and more. It was a joyful send-off, but we missed our graduates’ physical presence, their smiles and tears, as well as their families and friends. We vowed to bring the Class of 2020 back to campus at a later date for the commencement celebration they deserved.

Col. Douglas G. Hurley

We polled our graduates, and they selected Crawfest weekend as the time for their return for Commencement. So, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22, we will host the Class of 2020’s Commencement ceremony in Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse. This event will include live New Orleans jazz, recognition of our 2020 graduates as they cross the stage and a keynote address by Col. Douglas G. Hurley, a 1988 Tulane graduate, NASA astronaut and commander of the first crewed test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon. We will also welcome graduates, their families and guests to Crawfest the following day.

Col. Hurley’s piloting of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, which launched on May 30, 2020, lifted the spirits of a nation struggling through the early months of a global pandemic. This successful mission was a stirring symbol of hope in an otherwise difficult year and a reminder of the heights that human ingenuity could reach despite the challenges the country and world were facing. In choosing this year’s keynote speaker, we selected a genuine hero – someone who represents the very best of Tulane on a national and international scale. The SpaceX Demo-2 mission also marked the return of crewed launches from American soil following the retirement of the space shuttle program. During his 62 days at the International Space Station, Doug, a pioneer in human spaceflight, contributed more than 110 hours supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations. He also served as the robotics operator and intravehicular officer for four spacewalks.

Prior to the SpaceX flight, Doug piloted two space shuttle missions to the International Space Station, including the last flight of the space shuttle program in 2011. A devoted Tulanian and alumnus of our ROTC program, Doug remains active at Tulane, including serving on the Board of Advisors for the School of Science and Engineering. He also received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015 and will be honored with the President's Medal at the 2020 Commencement.

While his career has taken him far from Tulane, Doug always carries a bit of his alma mater with him, including a Tulane flag he brought on the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s mission to the International Space Station in 2009. Commencement speakers often tell graduates to reach for the stars. The amazing Class of 2020 will hear from a speaker who has actually done just that.