NSF director's portrait unveiling

Every picture tells a story. Each portrait in the gallery of directors at the U.S. National Science Foundation headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, is a chapter in the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. The newest portrait, of the 14th NSF Director France Córdova, was unveiled in a ceremony honoring her legacy and contributions to the NSF story.

"France embodies the very spirit of NSF, and this is reflected in her many accomplishments as director," said Sethuraman Panchanathan, 15th and current director of NSF.

Cordova portrait unveiling
Credit: Sethuraman Panchanathan
Panachanathan and Córdova at the portrait unveiling at NSF headquarters.

Córdova lead NSF from March 2014 to March 2020 and oversaw a tremendous period of discovery at the agency. During her tenure, the NSF-powered Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detected, for the first time in history, ripples in space-time. These gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity 100 years earlier. Additionally, she oversaw the discovery of the first image of a black hole, discovered by the NSF-supported Event Horizon Telescope. This set the stage for the EHT's most recent discovery, Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

"I am proud and humbled to have been a part of a government continuing to make good on those of words of our founders," said Córdova. "I am proud to have been a part of NSF, which in every generation, as the portraits reflect, aspires to push forward."

Two other former NSF directors were in attendance to honor Córdova’s service and recognize her legacy: Rita Colwell, who led the agency from 1998 to 2004, and Walter Massey, who led the agency from 1991 to 1993.

"For me it is a very special moment, to celebrate a friend a colleague and a great leader and to call her my predecessor is truly an honor," said Panchanathan.

By Noah Egge, senior technical writer/editor at NSF, and Cory Hancock, public affairs specialist at NSF