Photos by NASA

Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest to be Awarded to Former NASA Administrator, Astronaut

The public is invited to attend Major General Charles Frank Bolden Jr.’s free presentation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Major Gen. and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr. has been named by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego as the recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize. The public is invited to attend the award ceremony and a presentation from Bolden in a free event on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment on the Scripps campus.

The Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest is awarded annually by Scripps Oceanography. It includes a bronze medal and $25,000, and is awarded for outstanding contributions to science in the public interest. Since the first awarding of the prize in 2001, recipients have included newscaster Walter Cronkite, primatologist Jane Goodall, and filmmaker James Cameron, among others.

Bolden served as NASA Administrator from July 2009 to January 2017. In this position, Bolden oversaw a new era of exploration focused on full utilization of the International Space Station, as well as new space and aeronautics technology development. He prepared the agency for manned space exploration beyond the moon through development of the Orion spacecraft that will carry astronauts to deep space destinations, including asteroids and Mars.

The agency’s ground-breaking science activities under Bolden include an unprecedented landing on Mars by the Curiosity rover, launch of a spacecraft to Jupiter, and continued progress toward the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Prior to his appointment to that post by President Barack Obama, Bolden served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 34 years. This tenure included 14 years as a NASA astronaut, during which Bolden traveled to orbit four times aboard the Space Shuttle, commanding two missions and piloting two others. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2006.

Bolden was born in 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina. After graduating from high school, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy where he earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical science in 1968, and then went on to receive a master of science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977.

The nomination committee said Bolden was selected as the 15th recipient of the Nierenberg Prize because he is an American hero who overcame great obstacles to become a leader who transformed NASA during his tenure as administrator.

“From a Marine Aviator, to astronaut, to NASA Administrator, Mr. Bolden has spent a lifetime in service to science, to his country, and to the world,” said the Nierenberg family. “We especially recognize his extraordinary achievements in guiding NASA towards its new roles in planetary exploration and sophisticated technology development. Like William Nierenberg, for whom the prize is named, he faced social obstacles early on, and always remembered how important it is to excite and teach the next generation of citizens and scientists.”

“Being selected to receive the 2017 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest surpasses my wildest imagination of any recognition I could possibly receive for being allowed to pursue a passion for education inherited from my parents – Charles and Ethel Bolden – who devoted their entire lifetimes to teaching and making the lives of black students in segregated Columbia, South Carolina better and more productive,” Bolden said.

Throughout his scientific career, Bolden has worked to further his parents’ dedication to education and sharing information.

“Scientific knowledge is a vitally important ingredient in humanity’s ability to preserve our planet Earth – the only planet we currently know to be able to sustain human life,” Bolden said. “I feel an inherent obligation to contribute in every way I can to helping educate and inform everyone within my sphere of influence on the value of science to the future of society.”

The Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest was created through a gift from the Nierenberg family to honor the memory of William A. Nierenberg, (1919-2000), a renowned national science leader who served Scripps Oceanography as director from 1965 to 1986.

Nierenberg was a leading expert in several fields of underwater research and warfare, and was known for his work in low-energy nuclear physics. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1971 and was the recipient of numerous awards and honors for professional research and public service.

Related Image Gallery: Charles Bolden Jr.

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About UC San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, we embrace a culture of exploration and experimentation. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to look deeper, challenge expectations and redefine conventional wisdom. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at

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