Leland Melvin was drafted in the National Football League and went on to become an astronaut, but only after overcoming injury with a perseverance he’ll describe as the commencement speaker for the University of Washington Bothell’s 2017 graduating class. Melvin will speak in front of graduates, family and friends at Safeco Field. The ceremony begins at 4 p.m. June 13.
He uses his life story to inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
“Leland Melvin’s story reflects so much of what makes our own UW Bothell experience and our community unique,” says Chancellor Wolf Yeigh. “His career spans multiple disciplines. He’s an astronaut, athlete, scientist, photographer and musician. His story is one of perseverance and connecting innovation to the community.”
Growing up in Virginia, Melvin set records as a wide receiver at the University of Richmond and was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1986. However, a promising career with the Lions was cut short by a hamstring injury, which later prevented him from making the final roster with the Dallas Cowboys.
With degrees in chemistry and materials science, Melvin went to work at NASA’s Langley Research Center. He was selected as an astronaut in 1998. While training, Melvin suffered another medical setback, losing his hearing. After it was partially restored, he made two space shuttle flights in 2008 and 2009 aboard the Atlantis to the International Space Station.
The 53-year-old, who lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, is an advocate for education and spaceflight. Melvin tells of persevering over adversity in his book “An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace and Second Chances.”