New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will award more than 1,000 degrees during its May 26, 2004, commencement ceremony to be held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark.
Bachelor’s and doctoral degrees will be awarded in Prudential Hall starting at 9:30 a.m.; master’s degrees will be awarded from 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.
An honorary degree will be given to Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson, a former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization – known as “Star Wars.” During a distinguished career of 33 years in the United States Air Force, Abrahamson has been in the vanguard of the nation’s space and defense programs.
After earning his bachelor’s degree from MIT and a master’s from the University of Oklahoma, both in aeronautical engineering, Abrahamson spent most of the 1960s in Southeast Asia, where he flew 49 combat missions. He then trained as an astronaut and served with the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program until it was cancelled in 1969.
His many assignments have kept him at the cutting edge of aeronautics and space technology. He was project manager for the TV-guided, air-to-ground Maverick missiles; director of the multinational F-16 program; and associate administrator of Space Flight for NASA, where for three years he ran the Space Shuttle Program. His most prominent assignment was as director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization from 1984 to 1989. In this position, he was responsible to President Reagan for managing, directing and selecting key research and development programs designed to eliminate the threat posed by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles.
After his retirement from the military, Abrahamson served as chairman of Oracle Corporation, president of Hughes Aircraft Transportation Sector, and director of Task Force One for the Federal Aviation Administration. He also worked for the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. In 1998, he founded StratCom and partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop High Altitude Stratospheric Airships (HASA) for the telecommunications industry. But after 9/11, defense agencies took an interest in stationary airships for homeland security and coastal surveillance.
Last September, StratCom and Lockheed Martin won an exclusive contract with the Missile Defense Agency for HASA design and development. To be equipped with an array of cutting-edge equipment for remote sensing, communications and risk analysis of suspected threats, these ships are expected to solve security and telecommunications problems well into the 21st century.
The commencement will also have two student speakers. Anna Tomczak, of Newark, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, will be the undergraduate speaker. Joseph Catanio, of Springfield Township, who will receive a doctorate in information systems, will be the graduate speaker representing the doctoral students. A special university award, known as the Hashimoto Prize, will be awarded to Mizhou Tan, of Harrison. The prize is awarded annually at commencement to a doctoral candidate in electrical or computer engineering who shows a desire to advance the field and an aptitude for invention.