Contact: Michael Traupman, Director of College Relations, or
Abigail Fota, College Relations Associate - Media, 610-740-3790


Allentown, PA (January 14, 2004) - The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, theoretical physicist, university professor, senior government official and champion of opportunity for women and minorities, will be recognized with an honorary degree from Cedar Crest College on January 29, 2004 at 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Jackson's career is guided by a passion for science. "As I was growing up, I became fascinated with the notion that the physical world around me was a world of secrets. What fascinated me even more was that science, as applied in direct experimentation, was the key that could unlock those secrets."

Dr. Jackson holds a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics from M.I.T. (1973) and an S.B. in physics from M.I.T. (1968). She has been awarded an astounding 21 honorary doctoral degrees. Dr. Jackson's research specialty is in theoretical condensed matter physics, especially layered systems, and the physics of opto-electronic materials.

In 1995 President William Clinton appointed Dr. Jackson to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Dr. Jackson was Chairman of the NRC from 1995-1999. As Chairman, she was the principal executive officer of and the official spokesman for the NRC. She had ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC licensee. The NRC is charged with the protection of the public health and safety, the environment, and the common defense and security by licensing, regulating, and safeguarding the use of reactor byproduct material in the U.S.

While at the NRC, Dr. Jackson initiated a strategic assessment and rebaselining of the agency, leading to a new planning, budgeting, and performance management system that put the NRC on a more businesslike footing in its activities. She also introduced risk-informed, performance-based regulation to the NRC (utilizing probabilistic risk assessment on a consistent basis), which is now being infused throughout its regulatory programs. Elements of the approach also have been incorporated into the regulatory programs of other nations. She led the development of a new reactor oversight program, and created, with the Commission, a license renewal process resulting in the first renewal (in March 2000) of the license of an operating reactor in the United States.

While Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dr. Jackson spearheaded the formation of the International Nuclear Regulators Association (INRA) in May 1997, and was elected as the group's first chairman, a position she held from 1997 to 1999. The association is made up of the most senior nuclear regulatory officials from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As the first INRA chairman, Dr. Jackson guided its development as a high-level forum to examine issues, and to offer assistance to other nations, on matters of nuclear safety.

In July 1999, Dr. Jackson became the 18th President at Rensselaer and has since led in the development and implementation of the Rensselaer Plan, the Institute's strategic blueprint, while also securing a $360 million gift commitment to the university.

Dr. Jackson's remarkable career has been distinguished by many historical firsts. She was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from M.I.T. - in any subject. She is one of the first two African-American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the U.S. She is the first African-American to become a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She is both the first woman and the first African-American to serve as the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and now the first African-American woman to lead a national research university. She also is the first African-American woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

In 2002, Dr. Jackson was named one of the Top 50 Women in Science by Discover magazine, and recognized in a published book by ESSENCE titled 50 of The Most Inspiring African-Americans. She also was named one of "50 R&D Stars to Watch" by Industry Week Magazine. Dr. Jackson was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 for her significant and profound contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy and she will become president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, in February 2004.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the Cedar Crest College Special Events Office at 610-740-3791.

# # # #


Abigail Fota
College Relations Associate - Media


Return to Press Release archive