France Anne Córdova, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and former director of the National Science Foundation, was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University's spring 2022 Commencement on Saturday, May 14.
The degree was awarded for "her significant contributions in advancing the scientific and technological horizons of our nation, for her prescient leadership in government and education, and for her current endeavors in advancing the philanthropic support of basic science."
Cordova gave the graduates three quick pieces of advice; “connect with your passion, your instincts. Happiness in what you do in both your professional and personal life is more important than money. Choose your career path and your partners mindfully,” she said.
“Connect the dots. The most brilliant accomplishments are wonderful surprises, resulting from putting together different ideas in entirely new ways. Find a new space where no one has been before. The frontier’s a scary place, but there are wonders to be found there,” Dr. Córdova said.
Her third piece of advice was to “connect with others. Care about others and give back in your unique way. We’re here for just a short time, make your time one of impact.”
France Córdova is an experienced leader in science, engineering and education with more than three decades of experience at universities and national labs.
She is currently president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, a community of funders who work together to inspire new, emerging and current philanthropists to dedicate a portion of their philanthropy to basic science.
Córdova has served in five presidential administrations, both Democratic and Republican. She is an internationally recognized astrophysicist for her contributions in space research and instrumentation, and has served on both corporate and nonprofit boards.
She was the 14th director of the National Science Foundation, an $8.5 billion independent federal agency, which is the only government agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation, and STEM education and workforce development.
Córdova is the only woman to have served as president of Purdue University, where she led the university to record levels of research funding, reputational rankings, and student retention and graduation rates.
She is also chancellor emerita of the University of California, Riverside, where she was a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy. She laid the foundation for a medical school, California's first public medical school in more than 40 years.
Previously, Córdova served as NASA's chief scientist, representing NASA to the larger scientific community. She was the youngest person and first woman to serve as NASA's chief scientist and was awarded the agency's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.
Córdova has published more than 150 scientific papers and has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates, including ones from Purdue, Duke, Dartmouth and Carnegie Mellon universities.
She was awarded the Kennedy-Lemass Medal from Ireland and the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins from Chile, its highest civilian award.
Córdova is a Kilby Laureate for "significant contributions to society through science, technology, innovation, invention and education." She was inducted into the California Hall of Fame and the Stanford University Multicultural Hall of Fame, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy.
Córdova received her Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology and her bachelor of arts degree in English from Stanford University.