4 higher ed leaders, innovators win presidential Medal of Freedom

The recipients have made major breakthroughs in their fields

President Obama last week named 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation's highest civilian honor—several of whom have ties to higher education. 

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor—it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," Obama said in an announcement.  "From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."

The following leaders in higher education received the honor:

Richard Garwin

A polymath physicist, Garwin is known for his contributions to U.S. defense and intelligence technologies, computer systems, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, among other scientific fields. He taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and Harvard University. He has authored 500 technical papers and holds 47 U.S. patents. 

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Grace Hopper (posthumous)

Remembered as "Amazing Grace" and "the first lady of software," Rear Admiral Grace Hopper pioneered advances in computers and programming. She developed the first code compiler, used to translate source codes from different languages. After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, Hopper taught math as an associate professor at Vassar College

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Margaret H. Hamilton

Hamilton became a programmer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at only 24 years old. She would go on to lead the creation of on-board flight software for NASA'S Apollo command and lunar modules. Her work served as the basis for modern software design and engineering. 

Eduardo Padrón

As the president of Miami Dade College (MDC), Eduardo Padrón has been a strong advocate for expanding higher education access to minority, low-income, and immigrant students. MDC enrolls and graduates more Latino and black students that any other institution in the United States. Padrón has served as chair of numerous higher education boards, including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Business Higher Education Forum.

Read the full list of recipients here (White House release, 11/16; Reese, Tech Republic, 11/17; Gurney, Miami Herald, 11/16). 


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