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Dedication of Ellen Ochoa Pavilion at SDSU:
Two prominent figures in San Diego State University history — veteran astronaut Ellen Ochoa and mathematician Charles B. Bell Jr., — will be honored this spring in the renaming of the West Commons and East Commons buildings.
With the naming of the Ellen Ochoa Pavilion, SDSU honors Ochoa’s exceptional work expanding scientific understanding, breaking barriers in a historically male-led industry, and her continued support of students and the university.
A role model for girls and underrepresented minorities who aspire to have careers in science, technology, engineering and math, Ochoa inspires students around the world to pursue their dreams and overcome potential barriers to their success. Ochoa continues to support the students at her alma mater, leaving a legacy that will positively impact the lives of students at SDSU for years to come.
Ochoa grew up in La Mesa, attended Grossmont High School and graduated from SDSU in 1980. At SDSU, she was a member of the Marching Aztecs and spent five years in the SDSU Wind Ensemble. She then went on to Stanford University to receive master’s and doctoral degrees and launch her research career. She holds three patents in her research specialty, optics.
She later joined NASA in 1988 and was selected for the astronaut corps two years later. In 1993, she flew on her first mission, becoming the first Latina in space. She flew on four shuttle missions with a total of more than 978 hours in orbit and was on the first shuttle flight to dock with the International Space Station.
Ochoa capped a 30-year career with NASA by serving as director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Supervising a workforce of 10,000, Ochoa was the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center and only its second female leader.
In 1995, Ochoa was recognized by SDSU as Distinguished Alumna of the Year and in October 2019 she received an honorary Doctor of Science degree at a special SDSU ceremony in recognition of her role in space exploration and her commitment to the education of young people across the country.
“As a Latina, a scientist and a leader, Ellen is a pioneer who has made incredible contributions to her field, our university, and young minds around the world,” said de la Torre. “The Ellen Ochoa Pavilion will serve as a physical reminder for students of all backgrounds to break through barriers and ‘reach for the stars.’ SDSU is so proud to honor her as an alumna.”