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Keuka College News

National Medal of Science Recipient to Deliver Fribolin Lecture

Dr. Richard A. Tapia, recipient of the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers, will deliver the 24th Annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture Friday, May 4 at Keuka College.

One of the highlights of May Day Weekend, Tapia will speak at 6:30 p.m. in Norton Chapel. It is free and open to the public.

The lecture series carries the names of Geneva resident Carl Fribolin, an emeritus member of the College’s Board of Trustees and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2004, and his late wife.

“Richard is very well known for his major academic achievements and contributions to the advancement of mathematics, particularly computational math, but he is also a giant in diversifying these academic fields, that are notoriously lacking in this regard,” said Keuka President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera. “He is credited with bringing ethnic minorities and women into computing and related fields in substantial numbers and with great successes at the Ph.D. level. Wide dissemination of successful efforts to address under-representation is featured at his bi-annual conference, the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, which focuses on showcasing work of excellence in mathematics and computing by minority researchers.”

Tapia, University Professor and Maxfield-Oshman Professor of Engineering at Rice University, was born in Los Angeles to parents who emigrated from Mexico when they were children. He was the first in his family to attend college, earning his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from UCLA.

Due to his efforts, Rice University has received national recognition for its educational outreach programs and the computational and applied mathematics department has become a national leader in producing women and underrepresented minority Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences.

Above: A video produced by Rice University about Dr. Tapia after he won the National Medal of Science.

Tapia has authored or co-authored two books and more than 100 mathematical research papers, and is currently authoring a graduate-level textbook on the foundations of optimization.

When Tapia traveled to Washington to receive the National Medal of Science from President Obama last year, it wasn’t his first visit to the White House. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Clinton in 1996. That same year Clinton appointed him to the National Science Board, the governing board of the National Science Foundation, and he received the Hispanic Engineer of the Year Award from Hispanic Engineer Magazine. In 1994 he was the first recipient of the A. Nico Habermann Award from the Computing Research Association for outstanding contributions in aiding members of underrepresented groups within the computing community.

Tapia was inducted into the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference Hall of Fame in 1997. Hispanic Engineer & Informational Technology Magazine selected him as one of the 50 Most Important Hispanics in Technology and Business for 2004, the same year of his induction into the Texas Science Hall of Fame.

Tapia has been named one of the 20 most influential leaders in minority math education by the National Research Council, listed as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the U.S. by Hispanic Business magazine, and given the Professor of the Year award by the Association of Hispanic School Administrators, Houston Independent School District. In 2009, he received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Math and Science.


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