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Alumni Hall of Fame 2017
Barbara Means has been both a critical contributor to the growth and outstanding reputation of the organizations she has led at SRI since 1988 and an internationally recognized scholar in research and policy formation related to the role of technology in enhancing learning, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
Barbara has been instrumental in attracting “the best and the brightest” researchers in numerous education-related fields, bringing far-reaching and long-lasting benefits to those fields and the children and adults affected by their work. Barbara started the Center for Technology in Learning (CTL) in 1993 with a staff of five. The next year, she assumed leadership of the division in which CTL was housed. With Barbara as Vice President, the Policy Division grew rapidly, reaching a staff of 120 with annual revenues of $16 million in 1998. In 1999, she chose to return to research full-time, becoming co-leader of CTL. In that role, she helped the center expand steadily to become a highly respected and impactful center of 80 staff with 2016 revenues of $20 million.
The exceptional breadth of Barbara’s research and policy contributions is illustrated by the wide range of government and private-sector clients that have supported her work. Barbara has directed or co-directed projects for private foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; federal departments and agencies, such as the Institute of Education Sciences, the Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation; and even projects for the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Barbara has authored or coauthored seven books and 30 book chapters, almost all of which included other SRI staff members, thereby helping them build careers that also have redounded to the benefit of SRI and their field. She also has made keynote or invited presentations to such entities as the Board of Science Education of the National Research Council; the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; the World Conference on E-Learning; the Second International World Summit for Education; the Council of Chief State School Officers; and the National Governors’ Association.
The depth, breadth, and quality of Barbara’s research, as well as her key role in building a staff and organization with an enviable reputation, have benefited SRI in uncounted ways.
Donald Curran, the long-time director of SRI’s Shock Physics and Geophysics Program in the Poulter Laboratory, was a brilliant scientist, a beloved colleague, and a well-known and highly regarded ambassador/marketer for SRI. He joined SRI in 1970 and began leading a dynamic fracture program, which he then grew. During the following three decades at SRI, Don led several hundred research projects for government and industry, many of which involved developing materials (metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, and fabrics) and structures that would resist projectile impact (armor systems) and explosions (gas pipelines, nuclear power plants, military bunkers), “making people safer, healthier, and more productive”—SRI’s current mission statement. He authored well over 100 refereed journal articles and professional publications and coauthored three books.
Under Don’s guidance, SRI achieved international recognition in dynamic fracture of materials and structures and became the go-to research institute for projects involving material response under impact and explosive loads, a distinction that endures today at Poulter Laboratory and SRI’s remote explosive test site.
Don’s abilities and accomplishments were recognized by the scientific community with several prestigious awards.
- In 1994, Don was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
- In 2000, he received the John S. Rinehart Award, which recognized him for “seminal contributions to the understanding and modeling of dynamic fracture, fragmentation, and shear localization.”
- And in 2009, he received the American Physical Society’s highest honor, the George E. Duvall Shock Compression Science Award—“For his pioneering contributions to the fundamental understanding of dynamic failure of materials and the incorporation of this understanding into successful theories and models of material response.”
In addition to his achievements, Don’s unequaled wit, interpersonal skills, and a penchant for activities “just beyond my abilities” made an indelible imprint on those who knew him.
After beginning his SRI career in 1968, James Colton participated, led, supervised, and otherwise consulted as a research scientist in many international projects that resulted in significant enhancement of SRI’s worldwide reputation for achieving goals not deemed feasible by lesser performers. Examples include project work for Japanese clients on subjects ranging from the safety of nuclear facilities to surveying available computer codes and material models for simulation of impact and explosion events. Another example is his remarkable hands-on contributions to successful completion of one-of-a-kind pipeline safety experiments performed in Canada in 1992. In all cases, Jim’s contribution went much beyond his capacity as Poulter Laboratory director in that he participated and directly contributed to the advancement of the scientific goals of the project.
Most of Jim’s project work was in support of DoD and DoE, and his contributions to national security are well recognized by his peers and high authorities. These include major contributions in advancing the science involving impact and other impulsive pressure loads. His extensive background in academia (and more than 50 articles published in refereed journals) reflect Jim’s scientific career and his contributions to advancing the science in his area of specialty (response of structures to impulsive blast and impact loads).
As a result of his technical contributions, Jim gained vast recognition for himself and for SRI as an American institution that solves important problems with worldwide implications. His contributions were recognized with an SRI Fellowship award in 2006.
The performance of Poulter Lab under his leadership is clear evidence of his skills and competence as a lab director. However, Jim went much beyond this official capacity in mentoring young scientists who joined the group and letting them grow in their field of interest at the fastest possible pace. Jim’s genuine and straightforward demeanor and his flawless integrity and work ethic were appreciated by anyone who came in contact with him.
Mary Wagner joined SRI’s Center for Health, Education, and Social Science Research, directed by Dr. Mimi Stearns, in 1980. That center had been involved in studying the implementation of the so-called “mainstreaming” law (Public Law 94-142), which required giving students with disabilities a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive (that is, the most integrated with children without disabilities) environment appropriate to their needs. To determine whether this change in policy and practice was actually having an impact on the educational and life outcomes of students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education funded a major longitudinal study to recruit a nationally representative sample of 13- through 16-year-olds with disabilities and follow their progress for eight years. Mimi chose Mary to co-lead this high-visibility, multimillion-dollar effort, which was the first of its kind involving students with sensory, motor, behavioral, and cognitive disabilities. This highly successful project positioned SRI to win four subsequent major contracts for longitudinal studies of children and youth with disabilities. Mary’s work was instrumental in amassing nationally representative data and objective analyses of the educational experiences and outcomes for students with different kinds of disabilities.
The SRI work that Mary led was used by policymakers in framing federal legislation and by scholars producing more than 2,000 publications and presentations using SRI’s data. Mary herself was asked twice to testify before congressional committees.
Another major contribution Mary made was preparing her research group to expand to the evaluation of interventions intended to address a broader set of needs, not only for children and youth themselves, but also for their families. Mary established SRI’s Center for Education and Human Services (now the Center for Learning & Development), which won a major bid to do the original evaluation of California’s Healthy Start program.
In her tenure at SRI, Mary exemplified the twin values of doing the best possible research and of treating colleagues with kindness and respect. She was awarded an SRI Fellowship for her scholarly contributions, as well as the Mimi Award in recognition of her outstanding job in mentoring others and promoting their professional development.