University of Rochester

Shirley Ann Jackson to Give Commencement Address at University of Rochester

April 6, 2007

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson, who has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe, will be the speaker at the University of Rochester's commencement on Sunday, May 20.

Described by Time magazine in 2005 as "perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science," Jackson is a theoretical physicist who has advised and led many prestigious national organizations. She is past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and former chair of its board of directors, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and AAAS.

She serves as a Trustee of the Brookings Institution, a Life Member of the MIT Corporation, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She also is a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange (and is chair of the New York Stock Exchange Regulation Board), the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and is a director of several major corporations.

Her most recent honor, announced last month by the National Science Board, was the Vannevar Bush Award for "a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy." The board described her as "a national treasure."

"Shirley Ann Jackson's record of achievements and contributions in so many areas is extraordinary and we're honored to have her as the Commencement speaker," said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. "Her work as a distinguished scientist, teacher, and public servant is an inspiration to students who are ready to become the next generation of leaders."

In Rochester, Jackson will be presented the honorary degree Doctor of Science during the 157th commencement ceremonies for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at 9 a.m. May 20 on the Eastman Quadrangle on the University's River Campus.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Jackson earned her undergraduate degree in physics and her doctoral degree in theoretical elementary particle physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After two years as a theoretical physicist at Fermilab, she conducted research at AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey and served on various state commissions and task forces, including the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. In 1991, she joined Rutgers University as a professor of theoretical physics.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed her chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where, during her four-year tenure, she reorganized the agency, and completely revamped its regulatory approach to risk-informed, performance-based regulation. She became the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn., in 1999.

During the past several years, she has worked successfully to bring national attention to the underinvestment in basic research and to what she has dubbed the "Quiet Crisis" in America—the threat to the United States' capacity to innovate due to the looming shortage in the nation's science and technology workforce. She believes that the number of people choosing careers in science and technology must be increased, including tapping into the talent of women and minorities—whom she calls the "underrepresented majority."

"Dr. Jackson's focus on training in science and technology connects powerfully with an important part of our mission, and we look forward to her comments and advice to our graduates," said Peter Lennie, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering.

"Her accomplishments make Dr. Jackson a role model for young adults who are starting out their careers and will be shaping society," said Richard Feldman, Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering.

Note to reporters/editors: Digital images of Shirley Ann Jackson are available on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Web site at