November 9, 2021

Richard R. Arnold II Receives AASCU’s 2021 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Kellee Edmonds
(202) 478-4662

Richard Arnold II receives the DAA from Mildred Garcia in 2021.
Richard Arnold II receives the DAA from Mildred Garcia in 2021.

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla., November 9, 2021 – The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) today presented NASA astronaut Richard R. Arnold II with its 2021 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Arnold accepted the award during AASCU’s 2021 Annual Meeting in Clearwater Beach, Fla.

A Maryland native, Arnold earned a B.S. from Frostburg State University in 1985 and an M.S. in Marine, Estuarine & Environmental Science from the University of Maryland in 1992.

Selected as an astronaut in May 2004, Arnold has spent 209 days in space on two missions to the International Space Station and has conducted five spacewalks totaling 32 hours and 4 minutes. During his second mission in 2018, Arnold combined his passions for teaching and science as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station. Along with his flight engineer duties, Arnold connected to schoolchildren through live video downlinks, conducting experiments and lesson plans left unfinished by Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger accident.

“Ricky Arnold’s commitment to science, education and our own spaceship, the Earth, is clearly seen in everything Ricky does,” said Frostburg State University President Ronald Nowaczyk. “During his most recent spaceflight, he brought science alive for so many of our K-12 students, our future generation of citizens. Ricky’s accomplishments and contributions live the values of AASCU and Frostburg State University.”

For more than four decades, AASCU’s Distinguished Alumnus Award has recognized individuals who have achieved acclaim in their fields and who have made significant contributions to the public, intellectual, or cultural life of the nation. Through this award, AASCU directs national attention to the value of society’s investment in America’s state colleges and universities. Past honorees include President Lyndon Johnson, who was the first to receive the award in 1972.

“From the time he followed the Apollo space missions as a young boy until fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut in 2004, Ricky Arnold has embodied the principles of success, service and leadership that AASCU institutions strive to bolster in their graduates,” said AASCU President Mildred García. “We are honored and excited to have Ricky Arnold at our AASCU Annual Meeting and present him with our Distinguished Alumnus Award.”

A former math and science teacher at schools in Romania, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Indonesia, Arnold serves as director of the University of Maryland’s Center for STEM Engagement.

A licensed private aircraft pilot, Arnold serves as board president of Project WET: Water Education Today. The recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Science from Frostburg State University, Arnold was inducted into Prince George’s County Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2020. He received the Neil A. Armstrong Space Flight Achievement Award from the American Astronautical Society in 2019.


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of nearly 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise. Visit us at