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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Darden, Samet to Deliver Addresses at ODU Fall Commencement

Old Dominion University's 117th commencement exercises on Saturday, Dec. 15, will feature addresses by a high-ranking health care executive and a trailblazing African-American engineer.

More than 1,200 students will receive bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from ODU in the two ceremonies, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Christine Mann Darden, retired director of the Aero Performing Center Program Management Office at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, will speak to graduates of the Darden College of Education, Batten College of Engineering and Technology and College of Sciences in the 9 a.m. ceremony.

Kenneth A. Samet, president and chief executive officer of MedStar Health, will speak to graduates of the College of Business and Public Administration, College of Health Sciences and College of Arts and Letters in the 2 p.m. ceremony.

Rev. Joseph N. Green Jr., former Norfolk vice mayor and a long-time civil rights pioneer, will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Old Dominion University at the 9 a.m. ceremony. Samet will also receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters; Darden will receive an honorary Doctorate of Science.

During her 40-year career at NASA Langley, Darden's contributions were in research in supersonic aerodynamics, where she was recognized as an international expert in the area of sonic boom minimization, in national program leadership of the environmental aspects of supersonic operations, in agency strategic planning, project and program management and, finally, in the area of communications and education.

Born in Monroe, N.C., Darden came to Virginia to study at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), where she received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1962. She taught mathematics at a series of high schools before deciding to continue her education at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), earning a master's in applied mathematics.

In 1967, after spending a year as an instructor at VSU, Darden began her career at NASA as a data analyst. Five years later, she switched to an engineering position and began taking supporting engineering courses.

In 1983, she earned a Doctor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. During her career at NASA, Darden served as a senior program manager in the High Speed Research Program Office, working to develop the technology for building a supersonic airplane by the year 2015. From 1999 to 2002, Darden oversaw the work of Rotorcraft, Air Space Capacity, Information Technology and High Performance Computing in the Aero Performing Center. She retired from NASA in 2007.

With more than a quarter of a century of experience in health care administration in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, Samet has been MedStar Health's president and chief executive officer since January 2008. Samet previously served as the president and chief operating officer of MedStar Health since 2003, and was responsible for all operational aspects of the more than 25 companies that make up the largest, not-for-profit, health-care delivery system in the region, with annual revenues of $4 billion. Prior to that, Samet had served as COO since the system's inception in 1998.

Samet is currently a member of the board of directors at Georgetown University and of the Greater Baltimore Committee, and serves on the Executive Committee of the boards of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Federal City Council. He has held leadership positions on the boards of the American Hospital Association (AHA), District of Columbia Hospital Association and Maryland Hospital Association.

In addition, he served on the Board of Visitors for the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Samet is also a past board member and chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Old Dominion University Board of Visitors.

Green made history in 1965 when he became the first African American to graduate from the University of the South. A native of South Carolina, Green earned a bachelor's degree from St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C., and a Master of Divinity degree from Philadelphia Divinity School before earning a Master of Sacred Theology degree from The University of the South, also known as Sewanee.

Green was a member of the Norfolk School Board before his election to the Norfolk City Council, where he served for 20 years, including 12 years as vice mayor. He advocated for civil rights for African Americans and fair play for all as he worked for the betterment of Norfolk.

Highlights of his tenure include the promotion of mass transit, and his efforts to promote affordable and accessible housing in Norfolk led to new housing in many sections of the city. His work to establish a downtown campus of Tidewater Community College was recognized by the naming of the TCC administration building in his honor.

For more information about ODU's 117th commencement exercises, visit the commencement website at http://ww2.odu.edu/ao/commencement/.

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