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Commencement Speaker - 2012

Elon Musk

Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk—the visionary behind SpaceX, Tesla, and PayPal—was the speaker for the 118th annual commencement ceremony at the California Institute of Technology on Friday, June 15, 2012.

"Elon Musk is a visionary business leader and innovator who is spearheading revolutionary ideas in three global industries—automobiles, energy, and space exploration," said Jean-Lou Chameau, president of Caltech. "He is a powerful proponent of science and technology, and will share with Caltech graduates his perspective on how their brilliant, big ideas can and will have a positive impact in the world." 

Musk is the founder and chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, and the chairman of Solar City. He is most well known for helping to make mass production of electric vehicles viable and for pioneering commercial space flight through the Hawthorne-based SpaceX, which sent the world's first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station in May. Prior to his more recent ventures, Musk cofounded PayPal, the world's leading Internet payment system, and served as the company's chairman and CEO.

"Musk has demonstrated how talent, intelligence, and active leadership—notable traits that Caltech graduates also share—are vital to shaping the future of our world," said Chameau.

In February 2011, Musk was recognized by Forbes as one of "America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under."  In 2010, the Kitty Hawk Foundation honored him as a Living Legend in Aviation for creating the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. That same year, Musk became the youngest recipient of the Auto Executive of the Year Innovator Award for his work at Tesla Motors and was named to the Time 100. Earlier honors include being recognized for his work by R&D magazine in 2007 and receiving the National Space Society's 2009 Von Braun Trophy, given for leadership of the most significant achievement in space.