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Engineer, author and spacewoman selected as UVU commencement speaker

Published: Wednesday, April 10 2013 4:25 p.m. MDT

U.S. space tourist Anousheh Ansari waves shortly after landing near the town of Arkalyk, northern Kazakhstan, Friday, Sept. 29, 2006.

MISHA JAPARIDZE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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OREM — Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station, has been selected as the commencement speaker for Utah Valley University, officials announced Wednesday.

After immigrating to the United States from Iran in 1984, Ansari co-founded and served as chief executive and chairwoman of Telecom Technologies Inc. and later co-founded Prodea Systems, where she currently serves as chairwoman.

In 2006, Ansari made history by becoming the first Iranian in space. She was the fourth self-funded space tourist and continues to advocate for public awareness on space exploration.

"It is an honor to have Anousheh Ansari address the graduating class of UVU," university President Matthew S. Holland said in a prepared statement. "She has established herself as a steadfast advocate for the advancement of science and technology. Her hard work and dedication to following her dreams is an inspiration, and we are excited to share her vision with our students."

Ansari's memoir, "My Dream of Stars," will be presented this fall as one of the books in UVU's annual freshman reading program.

Ansari received a bachelor's degree from George Mason University and a master's degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. She will be presented with an honorary doctorate of science from UVU during the commencement proceedings, which are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 25 in the UCCU Center.

In addition to Ansari, honorary degrees will be awarded to Doris Buffett, founder of the Sunshine Lady Foundation; Janette Hales Bechham, former Utah state lawmaker and leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways.

"Each year, we choose community members and leaders that represent and promote the values that UVU embraces," Holland said. "Doris, Janette, David and Anousheh each provide a model for those characteristics and show UVU students and graduates the importance of following their dreams. We are very proud to have them join the UVU family."

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