Averett University Announces NASA Pioneer as 2024 Commencement Speaker

Posted on April 23rd, 2024 by Cassie Jones

Averett University is set to celebrate its spring 2024 commencement exercises. On Saturday, May 4, at 10 a.m., more than 200 graduating students will be honored at the ceremony.

Retired NASA pioneer Dr. Gregory L. Robinson ’93 will deliver the commencement address outdoors from Daly Field in the Frank R. Campbell Stadium at Averett’s E. Stuart James Grant North Campus, 707 Mt. Cross Rd.

Averett will once again graduate a diverse class from a wide array of backgrounds and demographics. Students ranging in age from 19 to 66 will graduate from the University’s traditional programs and Averett Online this commencement. The graduating class of 2024 includes 14 veterans, as well as 19 international students from 11 countries including Argentina, The Bahamas, Belgium, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Robinson, who earned a Master of Science degree in business administration from Averett in 1993, is best-known as the turnaround leader of the James Webb Space Telescope. He is credited with transforming a program that was billions over budget and years behind schedule into one of NASA’s greatest achievements of the 21st century.

When Robinson retired from NASA in 2022, he had been in public service for 33 years – from deputy associate administrator for programs at the NASA Science Mission Directorate, overseeing 114 science flight missions, to deputy center director of the John H. Glenn Research Center to deputy chief engineer to director of the James Webb Space Telescope Program. He also did a stint as a deputy assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Robinson is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards and honors, including being named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 and receiving the TIME100 Impact Award, which credited Robinson’s leadership on Webb as “bringing us closer to understanding the universe.” He was named the NASA Presidential Rank Distinguished Executive, the Presidential Rank Meritorious Senior Professionals and Executives Award, the 2022 Federal Employee of the Year, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He was also an Averett Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2023.

Robinson completed a dual degree program – receiving a B.S. in mathematics from Virginia Union University (VUU) and a B.S. in electrical engineering from Howard University, before attending Averett. He holds several honorary doctorates. Robinson is currently a lecturer at Columbia University and is a public speaker.

Born in Danville to sharecroppers, he was raised and educated in Pittsylvania County. He completed his schooling at Dan River High School, where he played football, wrestled and ran track, graduating in 1978. Robinson met his bride, Cynthia, of 41 years at VUU. They have three adult daughters and three grandsons, and live in Manassas, Virginia.

For more information on Averett’s Commencement, click here.