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Ednetics CEO, SpaceX Co-Founder, and Renowned Chemist to Receive Honorary Doctorates During Commencement

April 12, 2018

The University of Idaho will honor a former student, an alumnus and a retired faculty member with honorary doctorates during the spring commencement ceremony May 12 in Moscow.

College of Engineering alumnus Tom Mueller ’85 will receive an Honorary Doctor of Engineering, and also will give the commencement address.Mueller is the propulsion chief technology officer at SpaceX and one of the world’s foremost rocket engine designers, with more than 30 years of propulsion development.

“We are honored to welcome Tom back to the University of Idaho,” said Chuck Staben, U of I president. “We are delighted to recognize the contributions he has made to rocket engineering and space travel. In his career Tom shoots for the stars, and all of Idaho can take pride in that success.”

In 2017, Mueller was inducted in the College of Engineering’s Academy of Engineers.

Professor Emeritus Peter Griffiths will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science. Griffiths is an internationally renowned figure in the field of analytical chemistry. He holds a doctorate from Oxford University and joined the faculty at U of I as a professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science in 1989. He served as chair from 1989-97, and again in 2002. He served as interim associate vice president for research from 2000-01 and retired in 2008.

Shawn Swanby, president and CEO of Ednetics in Coeur d’Alene, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Education. Swanby studied in the College of Engineering from 1992-07 before leaving to incorporate his business. Swanby has been involved in multiple business ventures, including internet and software companies as well as a real estate development group. He serves as chief technology officer of Fatbeam, a fiber-optic provider recently ranked 190 on the Inc. 500’s fastest growing companies. In 2017, the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences awarded Swanby an honorary bachelor’s degree.

“Peter Griffiths and Shawn Swanby are great examples of the Vandal spirit of excellence,” Staben said. “Our honorary doctorates show the range of careers and disciplines in which Vandals can excel, and while their paths have been varied, a common thread of passion, innovation and leadership runs through their stories.”

The Moscow spring commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, in the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center. Tickets are not required for the event. General admission seating is first-come, first-served. Concessions will be open; no alcohol or outside food will be allowed. In the interest of enhanced safety, U of I will be conducting bag checks at all the entrances of the Kibbie Dome. For more information, go to

U of I also holds ceremonies at its statewide centers. Those dates and speakers are as follows:

  • U of I Idaho Falls: 7:30 p.m. Mountain time May 3, Willard Arts Center Colonial Theatre, Idaho Falls. The speaker is Idaho Falls entrepreneur Roger Ball.
  • U of I Coeur d’Alene: 7:30 p.m. May 7, Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center, North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene. The speaker is retired attorney Norman Gissel.
  • U of I Boise: 7:30 p.m. Mountain time May 15, Boise Centre, Boise. The speaker is Boise Mayor David Bieter.

Media Contact:
Savannah Tranchell
University Communications and Marketing

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at