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NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and successful businesswoman Linda Pancratz to be honored in person at UND summer commencement Aug. 8

Posted on 8/5/2014

University set to hold one of the largest August ceremonies with 515 students eligible to graduate

On Friday, Aug. 8, at 3 p.m. at the Chester Fritz Auditorium the University of North Dakota will hold one of the largest summer commencement ceremonies on record.

At this ceremony, honorary degrees will be bestowed upon NASA Astronaut Karen Nyberg and successful businesswoman Linda Pancratz alongside about 515 total graduates. Nyberg graduated from UND with a degree in mechanical engineering and has gone on to become the 50th woman in space. Nyberg delivered last summer's commencement address from the International Space Station. This year she will present to accept her degree.

Pancratz graduated from UND with a bachelor's degree in business administration. She has since become the chairman and chief executive officer of the investment company Mountain Capital LLC.

UND President Robert Kelley will be presiding over his seventh summer commencement ceremony. Each year, UND graduates more than 2,700 students in ceremonies in May, August and December. This year's total summer graduate tally is second only to August of 2006, when Und graduated 532 students.

The commencement will be broadcast live on Grand Forks Cable Channel 3 at 3 p.m. The commencement will also be able to be streamed live on the UND website ( A rebroadcast is scheduled Aug. 12-15 at noon and 8 p.m., on Grand Forks Cable Channel 3.

Karen Nyberg:

Nyberg is the only UND graduate to have gone into space. A native of Vining, Minn., she studied mechanical engineering at UND, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in 1994. She continued her education at the University of Texas at Austin, earning her master's and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering in 1996 and 1998, respectively.

Nyberg's involvement with NASA goes back to her undergraduate years, when she held co-op positions with the Johnson Space Center, working in a variety of areas. Upon completing her doctorate, Nyberg accepted a position with NASA's Crew and Thermal Systems Division, working as an Environmental Control Systems Engineer. NASA selected her for astronaut training in July 2000. After two years of training and evaluation, she qualified as a Mission Specialist and served in a support role for the Expedition 6 crew during their six-month stay at the International Space Station (ISS).

In July 2006, Nyberg participated in NEEMO 10, a deep-sea training and simulation exercise at the Aquarius laboratory off the coast of Florida. She and her crewmates lived and worked underwater for seven days testing concepts for spacesuit development and other space exploration options.

On May 31, 2008, Nyberg became the sixth Minnesotan and the 50th woman to be launched into space. That mission delivered to the ISS components for the Japanese Kibo laboratory and remote manipulator. During that 13-day mission, she orbited the Earth 218 times and traveled nearly 6 million miles.

On May 28, 2013, Nyberg, Russian Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and European Space Agency Astronaut Luca Parmitano were launched to the ISS for a 166-day mission. During that time Nyberg, became familiar to millions back on the ground as she shared pictures of the Earth and videos depicting astronaut activities. She also recorded a message for candidates at UND's 2013 summer commencement ceremony. In this second mission, she completed 2,656 orbits and traveled more than 70 million miles.

Nyberg is married to astronaut Douglas Hurley, and they have a son. She enjoys a wide range of recreational pursuits, including piano, drawing and painting, sewing and quilting, backpacking and running. She has completed several marathons, including the Boston Marathon.

Nyberg has received numerous honors and awards, both as a student and as an astronaut. From UND, she has been presented the Young Alumni Achievement Award (2004) and the Sioux Award (2009); the University of Texas has recognized her with its Outstanding Young Mechanical Engineer Award (2008) and its Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate Award (2009).

Linda Pancratz:

Linda Pancratz is recognized for her leadership in enterprises on both sides of the Atlantic and for philanthropy on behalf of the University of North Dakota and its College of Business and Public Administration.

Pancratz grew up in Grand Forks and attended UND, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with honors in 1976. She also attended executive development programs at the JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Pancratz spent much of her professional life in telecommunications. She held a number of senior management positions with US West before moving to the United Kingdom in 1995 to manage a business the company had acquired. Two years later, she participated in a management buyout of TDL Infomedia Limited.

Under her leadership, Pancratz led a subsidiary of Thomson Directories Limited, which was recognized as one of the "Times Top 100 Companies in the UK" and received the "Investors in People Award." The Thomson Directories Pension Company Limited also was recognized for "Trustee Excellence" and was named the "Best Small Pension Scheme in the UK." When the business was later sold to an Italian company, she stayed on as chair and CEO until she retired. She also served on a variety of company boards in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Italy. Today, Pancratz is chair and CEO of Mountain Capital, LLC, an investment company.

Pancratz has shared her time and talent with numerous civic organizations, including Junior Achievement, the American Cancer Society, Training Partnership Inc., Girls Club of Omaha (Neb.), Management Women's Association, and the Pine to Prairie Girl Scout Council. She is President of the ELM Family Foundation and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Vail Mountain School.

Pancratz also served on the UND Alumni Association & Foundation Board of Directors, chaired of the UND Foundation Board, and co-chaired the national campaign steering committee for North Dakota Spirit | The Campaign for UND, which raised more than $324 million for the University and was the state's largest-ever capital campaign.

Pancratz and her late husband, Mark, a 1977 UND alumnus, have been generous supporters of the University. Their gifts included establishing the Pancratz Career Development Center in the College of Business and Public Administration. She and her daughter, Elizabeth, live in Colorado.

Pancratz gave the main address at UND's 2007 winter commencement. She told the candidates, "UND is a very special place - a place where an ordinary person like me, a girl from Grand Forks, can get an extraordinary education, an education that is priceless and transformational, an education that changes opportunities and changes lives."


David L. Dodds
Media Relations Coordinator/Writer/Editor
Public Relations Group
Division of University and Public Affairs
264 Centennial Drive Stop 7144
Grand Forks, ND 58202-7144

701.777.5529 | 701.740.4834 cell | 701.777.4616 fax

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