Ohio Northern University announces undergraduate commencement speaker and award recipients
Ohio Northern University has announced that Robert Manning, Mars Exploration Program chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., will be the guest speaker at ONU’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 12, at 2 p.m.
Since 2004, Manning has been responsible for ensuring the success of current and future missions to Mars. In early 2008, he was named the chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission that successfully landed the rover Curiosity on the Martian surface in August 2012. The mission’s science goals include the investigation of the Martian climate and geology and the assessment of whether the rover’s landing site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Prior to these roles, Manning led the spacecraft systems engineering team for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project, which landed the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the surface of Mars in early 2004.
Before MER, Manning was the chief engineer for the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission, for which he also led its entry, descent and landing team. Prior to Pathfinder, he developed computers and fault tolerant electronic systems for JPL’s deep space missions. Manning has worked at JPL since 1980. As a result of his successes at JPL, he has received two NASA medals and is in the Aviation Week Magazine Space Laureate Hall of Fame in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. In 2004, SpaceNews magazine named Manning one of 100 people who has made a difference in civil, commercial and military space since 1989.
ONU will award Manning with an honorary degree at the ceremony. Oscar J. and Judith D. (Jacobs) Mifsud also will receive honorary degrees.
Judith Mifsud graduated from ONU in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education. She retired after teaching at the elementary level for 24 years. Currently, she is active in community-based service such as Interfaith Care Givers and PJs from Grandma Inc., a nonprofit organization she founded. Judith Mifsud has been an active alumna for ONU by serving on the national steering committee for ONU’s capital campaign, The Campaign for Ohio Northern University’s Tomorrow. She established the Judith D. (Jacobs) Mifsud Endowed Scholarship Fund to benefit students pursuing a degree in education at ONU. She is currently active in ONU’s GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) program, a giving society for young alumni. In 2009, her past and current contributions were recognized when she received ONU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Oscar Mifsud, who graduated from ONU with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in 1972, is the president and CEO of the Mifsud Group LLC, a private investment and management company, and the former president, CEO and owner of SMR Aerospace. Oscar Mifsud has generously offered his time to ONU. He has served on the ONU Board of Trustees since 2000 and, in 2007, was named vice chair of the board and a member of its executive committee. He also is a member of the board’s finance, investment and trusteeship committees. In the University’s recently completed and highly successful capital campaign, which raised more than $110 million, Mifsud served as national campaign chair. He established the Oscar J. Mifsud Leadership Scholarship Fund for the Dicke College of Business Administration. He received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009, the College of Business Administration’s Outstanding Service Award in 2012, and the College of Business Administration’s Pinnacle Award in 2013.
Together, the Mifsuds established the Mifsud Family Foundation, which provides a focus on health, education and welfare of children and families. The two also established the Oscar J. and Judith D. Mifsud Endowment at Ohio Northern University, ONU’s Pay It Forward program, and the Ohio Northern Senior Send Off program.