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Florida Polytechnic University 2018 Commencement Ceremony.

Tampa Bay

Decorated NASA astronaut to deliver Florida Poly commencement address

He logged more than 700 hours in space.

Nearly 300 Florida Polytechnic University students will receive undergraduate and graduate degrees during Sunday’s commencement at the Lakeland school.

It’s the school’s second and largest graduating class, with 278 students receiving degrees.

Three-time space shuttle astronaut and retired Air Force General Kevin Chilton will deliver this year’s commencement address.

Chilton completed a 34-year military career and served as an astronaut for 11 years. He logged more than 700 hours in space as a pilot of Shuttle Endeavour missions in 1992 and 1994, and as the commander of Atlantis in 1996. Chilton was the deputy program manager for operations for the International Space Station Program from 1996 to 1998. He also served as commander of U.S. Strategic Command from 2007 to 2011. He retired from the Air Force as a four-star general in 2011 and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2012.

“We are so proud of these students for their commitment, dedication and intent focus on their goals and dreams to earn their college degree,” said Randy Avent, president of Florida Poly. “This degree is a significant milestone in the lives of our students as they graduate ready to begin their careers and make an impact throughout the world. Our students have worked exceptionally hard, and I’m sure their accomplishments will be remarkable.”

Computer science undergraduate Travis Hills will deliver the student address. Hills is graduating with a concentration in cybersecurity and served as President of the Student Government Association.

“It’s been a long four years, but it has been some of the best years of my life,” Hills said. “I’m excited to see where the rest of my classmates’ pursuits lead them to in the years to come and to see what Florida Poly’s future has in store.”

The Florida Legislature established Florida Poly in 2012 as the only state institution focused exclusively on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

The school’s mission is to produce graduates who are lifetime employable and equipped to become the high-tech leaders of the future.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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