November 28, 2023

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of the U.S. Space Force and Purdue alum, to give winter commencement address

thompson-commencement U.S. Space Force Gen. David Thompson
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — U.S. Space Force Gen. David Thompson, a Purdue University alum who serves as vice chief of space operations for the Space Force, will deliver the address at Purdue’s three Winter 2023 Commencement ceremonies Dec. 17.

In his Space Force role, Thompson is responsible for assisting Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the chief of space operations, in organizing, training and equipping the military agency’s personnel in the United States and overseas.

A four-star general, Thompson also oversees the integration of space policy and guidance and coordinates space-related activities for the Space Force and the Department of the Air Force. He received his master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue in 1989 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

A career space officer with assignments in operations, acquisition, research and development, and academia, Thompson was commissioned in 1985 as an Air Force Academy graduate. He has commanded operational space units at the squadron, group and wing levels. He also is an Olmsted Scholar, graduate of the Senior Acquisition Course and Level III-certified program manager.

Prior to his current assignment as vice chief of space operations, Thompson was vice commander of the Space Force.

The Space Force organizes, trains, equips and maintains mission-ready personnel who provide missile warning, space domain awareness, positioning, navigation and timing, communications and space electronic warfare for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Space Command and other combatant commands.
Additional Information

Purdue’s winter commencement ceremonies will take place as follows:

  • Division I — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday, Dec. 17. Degrees for College of Pharmacy, College of Science, Polytechnic Institute and College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Division II — 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Dec. 17. Degrees for colleges of Agriculture and Engineering.
  • Division III — 7 p.m. ET Sunday, Dec. 17. Degrees for College of Education, College of Health and Human Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business.

Admission tickets required

Tickets are required for admission into Elliott Hall. Doors open 90 minutes before each ceremony, and attendees with bags must have them checked at the door before entering. Ceremonies will be livestreamed. For in-person attendees, parking details are available online.

Isom, Buffo, Birch to give student responses

Delivering the student response at the Division I ceremony is Gretchen Isom, a native of Plymouth, Indiana, who is receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in human resources development with a minor in human resources management. After graduation, Isom plans to intern with PepsiCo Inc. as part of its human resources master’s program.

Nicholas Buffo, from the suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas, will give the student response at the Division II ceremony. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering, Buffo will continue to work as a peer counselor in the College of Engineering. He is currently applying to medical schools for fall.

Giving the student response at the Division III ceremony is Audrey Birch of DeMotte, Indiana, who is receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical health sciences with a concentration in pre-medicine and a minor in biological sciences. After graduation, she plans to pursue dual master’s degrees in health care administration and business administration.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution with excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top 4 in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, with 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 12 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap, including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes, at

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