Jun 20, 2019
Dr. Anna Lee Fisher
Former astronaut and UCLA chemistry alumna Anna Lee Fisher was the distinguished speaker for the UCLA College Commencement on Friday, June 14, 2019.
 
A "triple Bruin", Fisher earned a B.S. in chemistry from UCLA in 1971 and an M.D. in 1976.  She was chosen as an astronaut in 1978 and, after her space flight in 1984, she obtained an M.S. in chemistry from UCLA in 1987. Fisher was so devoted to her space job that she gave birth to her oldest child, Kristin, on a Friday and attended a NASA meeting the following Monday in preparation for her flight. She retired from NASA in 2017. Fisher was recently profiled in an article in the May 11, 2019, issue of the Washington Post.  
 
Fisher is among UCLA’s icons featured in its Optimists campaign and is a very active member of the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Chair’s Council.
 
Videos of Fisher’s commencement addresses are available online: 2 p.m. ceremony video (begins at 1:04:50 mark) and 7 p.m. ceremony video (begins at 1:03:10 mark).
 
Fisher's UCLA commencement address was recently featured on the ABC News website - "1st mother in space, Dr. Anna Lee Fisher, shares powerful life lessons during inspiring commencement address". Read more here.
 
Excerpt from UCLA Newsroom (by Alison Hewitt)
 
                                                                                                             Photo by Reed Hutchinson/UCLA
 
Centennial UCLA graduates celebrate at Pauley Pavilion commencement
 
You, too, can aim for the stars, astronaut Anna Fisher tells the class of 2019
 
Amid cheers and tears of happiness, the centennial class of UCLA celebrated both its graduation and the 100 years of UCLA’s existence at today’s commencement ceremonies, embracing the message that extraordinary changes don’t happen inevitably, but because people like this year’s graduates fight for it.
 
About 6,000 seniors were expected at the UCLA College commencement ceremonies in Pauley Pavilion at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., joined by more than 20,000 friends, family members and guests. At dozens of ceremonies across campus this graduation season, UCLA awarded roughly 8,400 undergraduate degrees and 5,000 graduate degrees, including just over 600 Ph.D.s.
 
Astronaut and three-time UCLA alumna Anna Lee Fisher delivered the keynote address at both ceremonies, telling students that her path to success was neither smooth nor guaranteed, but the result of perseverance in the face of setbacks, learning from mistakes, and back-up plans.
 
When she couldn’t become an astronaut because women weren’t allowed to be test pilots, she decided to become a doctor so NASA would send her up to care for other astronauts. When she didn’t get into medical school on her first try, she got her master’s degree in chemistry – a degree that was instrumental in her selection as one of the first six female astronauts.
 
“Sometimes, when you read or hear about a person who appears to be successful, it sounds as though it was smooth sailing the entire time,” Fisher said. “I’ve had many missteps and disappointments along the way, and inevitably, you will, as well. Learn from those experiences and use that newfound knowledge to continue to pursue your dreams.”
 
Through it all, she said the hardest things she ever did were leaving her then-14-month-old daughter during her first space flight, and returning to NASA after the birth of her second daughter.
 
“I also, incidentally ... became the first mother to fly in space,” Fisher said. “I did not consider it a big deal, as most of my male colleagues had children as well. But of course my daughter says I owe it all to her. … For you parents and families, as you can see, even though I have three degrees, have been a doctor and an astronaut and have flown in space, I am still ‘just Mom’ to them.”
 
 
 
Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.