Astronaut Mike Hopkins is busy preparing for his first-ever commencement speech — at his first college graduation ceremony ever.
The 1991 University of Illinois engineering graduate, who will speak at the May 17 UI commencement, didn't go through the campuswide ceremony as a student because he graduated in December.
He played in the John Hancock Bowl in El Paso on Dec. 31, attended his ROTC commissioning on Jan. 4, then started driving to California an hour later so he could start graduate school at Stanford on Jan. 6.
"It was kind of a busy time," Hopkins said Friday from the Johnson Space Center.
Setup for next weekend's commencement at Memorial Stadium is set to begin Monday, and preparations got underway this week at Huff Hall and other sites hosting ceremonies planned by individual colleges or departments.
Hopkins said he is still "fine-tuning" his commencement address but it's coming together nicely.
He plans to talk about his mission aboard the International Space Station — he returned March 10 after six months in space — and "relate it as best I can to the graduates."
"I feel pretty good about it," he said.
Hopkins will be in full academic regalia for the ceremony, but it won't be orange and blue — at least not completely.
"The protocol is that you wear regalia from the university of your highest degree," and for Hopkins that would be Stanford. He wasn't sure what it looks like but hinted that he may sneak some Illini touches in somewhere.
"We'll see," he said.
A former Illini football co-captain, Hopkins is excited about being back at the stadium. He attended a reunion ceremony there during the 2011 spring football game but only made it onto the end zone.
"It's been awhile since I've been out at the 50-yard line," he said.