NSF Director to Speak at NC State Commencement

France A. Cordova, NSF director
France A. Córdova, National Science Foundation director

National Science Foundation Director France A. Córdova will deliver NC State’s commencement address on Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. at the PNC Arena in Raleigh.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Randy Woodson will confer honorary degrees on Betsy Bennett, visionary former director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Clara L. Adams-Ender, executive director of a nonprofit dedicated to helping students of modest means complete college.

Córdova was named the NSF’s 14th director last March after presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. She leads the only government science agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Córdova is president emerita of Purdue University. She led the University of California, Riverside, as chancellor and served as a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy. She was chancellor for research and professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before a stint as NASA’s chief scientist, Córdova was a faculty member and department head at the Pennsylvania State University and a deputy group leader and staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University and a Ph.D in physics from the California Institute of Technology. She has served as chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution and as a member of the board of trustees for the Mayo Clinic.

Bennett retired in 2012 after more than two decades as director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, transforming it from exhibit space in a cramped state office building into a pioneering institution now being replicated worldwide. She altered the Raleigh skyline – twice – and created a global destination to inspire generations. To get there she snared dinosaurs, recruited world class scientists, won over legislators and enlisted a platoon of CEOs.

The only physics major at all-female Hollins University, Bennett excelled in science and politics. She earned a doctorate in science education at the University of Virginia and was elected to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board in the 1970s, helping craft an integration and pupil assignment plan in a tense and divisive era. She was named Tar Heel of the Year in 2011 by the News & Observer and served as president of the Association of Science Museum Directors. Bennett currently works as strategic counsel at Capital Development Services and serves on the boards of the Kenan Institute for Science & Engineering, the N.C. Botanical Garden, Triangle Land Conservancy and Kidzu Children’s Museum, among others.

Adams-Ender is executive director of the nonprofit Caring About People with Enthusiasm Legacy Fund, which raises funds and partners with other nonprofits to ensure that college is within reach for as many needy students as possible. A Wake County native, she received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Minnesota. She earned a Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Adams-Ender rose from Army staff nurse to become chief executive officer for 22,000 nurses, brigadier general and director of personnel for the Army Surgeon General. She was vice president for nursing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the largest health care facility in the Department of Defense. In 1967, she became the first female in the Army to be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. She commanded an Army base, a position equivalent to city manager, magistrate and mayor of a city. She was the first Army nurse in history to command as a general officer. In 2001, she published her memoir, My Rise to the Stars.

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