United States Navy Captain (Retired) Donnie L. Cochran, a graduate of Savannah State, will deliver the commencement address.
A native of Pelham, Ga., Cochran earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering Technology and a commission in the United States Navy in 1976.
His academic achievements include graduating from Troy State University with a master's degree in Human Resource Management and the United States Air Force Air War College with a diploma in National Security and International Studies.
Currently, Cochran is employed at Coca Cola Aviation Department as the group manager of Flight Operation Support and as a captain on the Gulf Stream V aircraft.
Prior to joining Coca Cola, Cochran worked for United Parcel Services (UPS) as a flight training supervisor and as a captain onboard the Boeing 727 aircraft.
Cochran became part of the civilian aviation industry in December 2000 with experience gained from his 24-year aviation career with the U.S. Navy.
He retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain in November 2000.
His Navy career included duty as a fighter pilot, flying the RF-8 and F-14A from the decks of the aircraft carriersUSS Nimitz, USS Coral Sea, USS Kitty Hawk, USS Enterprise and the USS Ranger.
Cochran's distinguished career also included two tours with the United States Navy
Flight Demonstration Squadron, The Blue Angels.
In 1985, he
was honored by his
selection as the first African-American pilot to fly with the Blue Angels.
In 1994, he became the first African-American pilot to command the famous squadron.
tours as a Blue Angel pilot, he
flew over 2,200 hours in more than 300 air shows before over 30 million spectators throughout the United States and Canada.
He has also served as the professor of Naval Science at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Fla., with cross-town enrollment for students at Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College.
During his final assignment, Cochran served as the Deputy Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, second in command of over 7,000 people at over 1500 locations around the nation and abroad.
He is a command pilot with ratings and experience in nine types of aircraft and over 5,450 hours of flight time.
The numerous awards and honors bestowed upon Cochran
include the Distinguish Graduate Award from Savannah State University
, Black Engineer of the Year for 1989, the Legion of Merit Medal, (3) Meritorious Medals, Navy Commendation Medal and Air Medal.