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Astronaut, U Of I Graduate Hopkins To Give Commencement Address

Mike Hopkins arrives in Kazakstan

Expedition 38 flight engineer Mike Hopkins, of NASA, gives a thumbs up shortly after the Russian Soyuz TMA-10M capsule carrying him, commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, of the Russian Federal Space Agency, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The astronauts returned to Earth after spending nearly six months on the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

University of Illinois graduate Mike Hopkins, who spent six months aboard the International Space Station, will deliver the school’s annual commencement address next month.

Hopkins just returned to from his time in space three weeks ago, after orbiting Earth for more than 2,500 times and participating in two space walks. 

He’ll deliver the graduation speech on the field of Memorial Stadium on Saturday, May 17th.  Commencement ceremonies are on the field due to renovations at the State Farm Center.  

Hopkins, a walk-on member of the Illini football team and eventually one of its captains, said he’s eager to return to the U of I.  

“I’m as nervous as I was going out on that first spacewalk,”  he said, in a university press release.  “I’m still getting comfortable with speaking in front of a large group of people – and there’s still a little bit of disbelief that they would consider me.”

Hopkins earned a degree in aerospace engineering in 1991, and graduated from NASA's astronaut candidate training program in 2011.  He earned his master's degree from Stanford University, and applied for nearly 12 years before being accepted in the astronaut program. 

Hopkins is a native of Richland, Missouri.

The U of I's annual commencement ceremony gets underway at 9:30 a.m.