Astronaut, alumna Jan Davis (’83, ‘85) to deliver UAH fall commencement address

Dr. Jan Davis
Michael Mercier | UAH

N. Jan Davis, former NASA astronaut and alumna of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) will deliver the commencement address on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Von Braun Center (VBC) in the Propst Arena.

UAH is expected to confer more than 1,000 diplomas at its fall graduation ceremony, 598 bachelor's degrees, 379 master's degrees and 53 doctoral degrees. Dr. N. Jan Davis, who earned graduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering from UAH, will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the university during the ceremonies. The university will host two commencement ceremonies:

  • 10 a.m. | UAH Colleges of Engineering and Science.
  • 2:30 p.m. | UAH Colleges of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, Business, Education, Nursing, and Professional Studies.

Graduating students participating in the 10 a.m. ceremony may begin checking in at the VBC East Hall at 8:30 a.m. Graduating students participating in the 2:30 p.m. ceremony may begin checking in at 1 p.m. The arena will open at 8:30 a.m. for guests attending the 10 a.m. ceremony. The arena will open at 1 p.m. for guests attending the 2:30 p.m. ceremony. No tickets are required for guests.

Dr. N. Jan Davis is a successful, and respected aerospace senior executive with experience in corporate leadership as well as with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a member of the Senior Executive Service. Davis currently serves as Program Manager, of Bastion Technologies Inc. at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville. Before joining Bastion Inc., Davis served as Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Jacobs Engineering and Science Services and Skills Augmentation Group at MSFC.

She began her NASA career in 1979 at MSFC as an aerospace engineer. After supporting major NASA programs and projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Davis became the lead engineer for the redesign of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster External Tank attach ring after the Challenger accident occurred in 1986.

Davis was selected to join the astronaut corps in 1987 at the NASA Johnson Space Center. She spent more than 670 hours in space as a mission specialist over the course of her three flights: STS-47 (1992), STS-60 (1994), and STS-85 (1997). During these flights, she orbited the Earth 325 times while operating experiments, operating the Shuttle’s arm, and various other duties. On her last space flight, Davis served as the Payload Commander of the mission. While in the astronaut corps, she served as the Mission Development Branch chief in payloads, robotics and extravehicular activity for the Space Shuttle. She chaired the NASA Education Working Group, and was a spacecraft communicator for six missions.

In 1998, Davis became the Director of the Human Exploration and Development of Space Independent Assurance Office for NASA Headquarters. She returned to Marshall in 1999 as Deputy Director of the Flight Projects Directorate and was named Director of the Flight Projects Directorate in 2001.

Davis served as the Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at MSFC until 2003. She led a team of more than 1,400 civil service and contract workers responsible for payload and science operations for the International Space Station, training crews to operate Space Station science experiments and operating the control center for those experiments.

She earned graduate degrees in mechanical engineering from UAH in 1983 and 1985, respectively. Davis also earned degrees from The Georgia Institute of Technology and Auburn University in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, respectively. She is an alumna of Huntsville High School.

Davis is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal (‘95, ‘02), NASA Space Flight Medal (‘92, ‘94, ‘97), ASME Ralph Coates Roe Medal, UAH Alumni of Achievement, Auburn University’s Lifetime Achievement, Georgia Tech Engineering Hall of Fame, and Christine Richard Girl Scouts Lifetime Achievement. She has been inducted in the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, and earned the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive. In addition, Davis is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Omicron Delta Kappa, Pi Tau Sigma, Sigma Gamma Tau, and Alpha Xi Delta social sorority.

Davis also serves on numerous non-profit boards and panels including the United States Association of Space Explorers. In her spare time, she encourages young people — especially young women, to enter STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Davis and her Labrador retriever mix dog are Therapy Partners in the community, and they serve with the Partners Achieving Literacy (PAL) program at Whitesburg Elementary School in Huntsville.


Janet Waller
UAH Registrar