Former NSF Director Dr. France Cordova Will Deliver Keynote Address at Commencement

May 11, 2020

Cordova formerly worked at Los Alamos and now lives in Santa Fe


SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech is pleased to announce that former Director of the National Science Foundation Dr. France Cordova is the keynote speaker for the 2020 Commencement ceremony. 

france cordova portraitThe virtual ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 16. More than 300 members of the Class of 2020 will take part in the event, which will be completely online. The website address will be available soon.

NMT President Dr. Stephen Wells said, “New Mexico Tech is excited and honored to have Dr. France Cordova serve as our 2020 Commencement Speaker. Dr. Cordova’s stellar career is an inspiration for all of our graduating students.”

In 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Córdova to serve as the 14th head of the National Science Foundation, a position she held until retiring earlier this year.

She and her husband now live in Santa Fe. Incidentally, her husband Christian has a master’s degree from New Mexico Tech.

“Dr. Cordova’s participation in our commencement is special given she has roots in New Mexico from her time as the deputy group leader at Los Alamos National Labs to now as a resident of Santa Fe,” Wells said. “Starting as a professor in physics and astronomy, she has gone on, serving as the Director of the National Science Foundation, the president of Purdue University, the Chancellor of UC-Riverside, and Chief Scientist for NASA. She is without a doubt a STEM superstar.”

Dr. Cordova’s has roots in New Mexico from her time as the deputy group leader at Los Alamos National Labs to now as a resident of Santa Fe! 

Dr. Cordova has had a wide ranging career in science, education, and leadership. She earned her bachelor’s in English at Stanford and then moved to Boston. Before long, she found herself working as a science writer, which spurred her interest in astrophysics.

NMT Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said Dr. Cordova is a great example of someone who develops an interest in science later in life.

“Traditionally, children get interested in science and math early on,” Romero said. “Dr. Cordova is a an example of someone who took a much different course – and ended up at the top of the heap. Her career path goes to show that you can get enamored with science and engineering later on and still be very successful.”

She earned her Ph.D. in physics from Cal Tech in 1979, and then spent 10 years working at Los Alamos National Lab. In 1993, Dr. Córdova was the youngest person and first woman to hold the position of NASA Chief Scientist,.

In 1996, Dr. Córdova became the vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2002 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, where she was also a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy.

Córdova became the eleventh president of Purdue University in 2007 and promoted student success and the commercialization of interdisciplinary research.

President Obama appointed Dr. Córdova to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution in 2009, and she served until 2014, when she took over the directorship of the NSF.

“We are pleased that she agreed to film her talk for this year’s ceremony,” Wells said. “We will try our best to welcome Dr. Cordova to an in-person visit to New Mexico Tech.”

– NMT –