I was stunned this afternoon to learn about the death of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, from pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Ride inspired many girls to consider careers in science. And dozens of local teachers attended her Sally Ride Science Academy.
Two years, ago, I moderated a roundtable about encouraging and inspiring girls to pursue careers in science, math and technology. Dr. Ride hosted the event and served as a panelist, along with Dr. Barbara Baumstark of Georgia State and Dr. Beverly Tatum of Spelman. I had interviewed her years earlier while a reporter in Florida, but spent a lot more time with her during this event.
Dr. Ride was inspiring, warm and funny. She talked about her proud her dad was when she was chosen for the space program as he was able to brag about his daughter the astronaut rather than his daughter the physicist. People understood what astronauts do; they weren’t quite sure what physicists did.
Dr. Ride was committed to encouraging girls to study the sciences, noting that women made up only 25 percent of the science, engineering, and technology workforce (including social scientists) and only 11 percent of engineers.
At the time, she had launched Sally Ride Science, a science education company that creates programs and products for students and teachers in elementary and middle school—and has a particular focus on encouraging girls. Dr. Ride was also a Professor of Physics (Emerita) at the University of California, San Diego. She received her B.S in Physics, B.A in English, and M.S. and PhD in Physics from Stanford University.
According to her bio from that event: She flew in space twice, first in 1983 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, then again aboard Challenger in 1984. While at NASA, she directed NASA’s first strategic planning effort, and founded and served as the first Director of NASA’s Office of Exploration. She is the only person to have served on both the Presidential Commission investigating the Challenger accident and Columbia Accident investigation board. Dr. Ride was a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology for eight years. She is a member of the boards of Caltech and The Aerospace Corporation, has received numerous awards, including the Lindbergh Eagle, the Von Braun Award, and the Jefferson Award for Public Service. She has twice been awarded the National Spaceflight Medal, and is an inductee into the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the California Hall of Fame.
--From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog