France A. Cordova (Doctor of Science)

Córdova received an honorary degree at Dartmouth’s 2019 commencement ceremony.

FRANCE A. CÓRDOVA, as an award-winning astrophysicist, educator, and scientific administrator, you have influenced and enlightened the world through the wonder of scientific discovery. 

Always an exceptional student, you earned your degree in English from Stanford in 1969 aspiring to be a journalist. But just as man’s first trip to the moon altered the course of human history, so too did it alter the course of your career trajectory. Inspired by Apollo 11 and a documentary on neutron stars, you earned your PhD in physics from CalTech before joining Los Alamos National Laboratory, catapulting your career in rocket science.

A true “guardian of the galaxy,” you initiated and led path-breaking research in the areas of observational and experimental astrophysics, publishing more than 150 scientific papers and building the x-ray telescope for the satellite XXM-Newton that delivered new data from the cosmos for decades.

Ever the optimist, you saw obstacles as opportunities. In 1993, 30 years after you successfully petitioned your high school to participate in what was then a boys-only physics class, you became the first woman and youngest person ever to be named NASA Chief Scientist. 

Today, you keep our country at the forefront of science and engineering as head of the National Science Foundation, empowering future generations of leaders in related fields, and have taken a leadership role in addressing sexual misconduct in research laboratories around the country while promoting gender, racial and ethnic equality in science.

For your extraordinary contributions to our understanding of the universe, for your exemplary leadership and stewardship of science education, research and policy, and for your deep commitment to diversity, inclusivity and equity in STEM fields, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.