The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Elects Two New Board Members

October 10, 2018
Hertz Staff
Livermore, Calif

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering America’s most brilliant minds in science, mathematics and engineering, today announced the addition of Hertz Fellows Elise Cawley and David Thompson to the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Cawley is a mathematician and former academic with interests in the philosophy of math and its impact on math and science education. Thompson is a renowned aeronautics and astronautics entrepreneur who most recently served as president and CEO of Orbital ATK, a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies acquired by Northup Grumman earlier this year.

“The Hertz Foundation’s Board of Directors must bring a diverse mathematical, scientific and engineering background that can further stimulate the research and creativity of our Fellows and help increase their impact on the world around us,” said Robbee Baker Kosak, president, Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. “Elise and David have done inspiring work in their fields. Elise brings the perspective of pure mathematics to bear on new directions for mathematics and its applications, and new emerging opportunities for the next generation of students. David’s work in Aeronautics and Astronautics will no doubt inspire the work of America’s most brilliant PhD students in the field. We could not be more excited to welcome these two Hertz Fellows to their new roles at the Foundation.”

Elise Cawley is a founding member of the community advisory board for Stanford Online High School, an independent school located at Stanford University for intellectually passionate students in grades 7–12. She is a frequent advisor for school innovators and a team coach for the MATHCOUNTS Foundation, a nonprofit organization that strives to engage middle school students in mathematics to expand their academic and professional opportunities. Cawley studied math and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Maryland. As a Hertz Fellow, she completed her PhD in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, where her research focused on the intersection of dynamical systems and geometry. Cawley received a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, and spent time at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, the French Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES), Stony Brook University, University of California Berkeley and the University of Chicago, doing research in Gibbs theory, Teichmüller theory, and dynamical systems. While at the University of Chicago, Elise worked with Robert Zimmer, former Chairman of the Mathematics Department and now President of the University, developing the draft plan for a master’s degree program in Financial Mathematics, one of the first of its kind.

“I am delighted to join the board of the Hertz Foundation, which provided me with generous support in my early career,” said Cawley. “One of the most important aspects of the Hertz Fellowship is that it provides a level of support that enables independence and risk-taking, at the stage when taking risks can have the most long-term impact. I look forward to increasing my ongoing involvement with the Foundation and contributing to the mission to build on the community of fellows, and enable truly original research with importance for the country and the world.”

David Thompson retired from his position as president and CEO of Orbital ATK in 2018 following the company’s acquisition by Northup Grumman. He co-founded one of Orbital ATK’s predecessors, Orbital Sciences Corp. in 1982, serving as the company’s Chairman and CEO until its merger with Alliant Technsystems in 2014. Thompson has received numerous awards including the National Medal of Technology, Virginia Inudustrialist of the Year and the Smithsonian Institutin’s National Air and Space Museum Trophy. He received a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and completed his M.S. in Aeronautics at Californias Institute of Technology (Caltech) as a Hertz Fellow. Thompson also holds an M.B.A.from Harvard Business School and serves as a member of the Boards of Trustees of Caltech and the Carnegie Institution.

“I am excited to join the Hertz Foundation Board at a time when space-related science and engineering are advancing rapidly,” said Thompson. “Past and current Hertz Fellows working in many different disciplines have made major contributions to this sector, and future Fellows are likely to continue to lead in the decades ahead.”

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation is the legacy of John Hertz, a Hungarian immigrant who made his fortune by capitalizng on the entrepreneurship prospects in the building automotive industry. He believed that innovative and entrepreneurial solutions were vital to the strength, security and prosperity of our nation – and began the Foundation to support exceptionally talented students expected to have the greatest impact on the world’s problems. The Hertz Community is one of the most influential groups of leaders, innovators, engineers, mathematicians and scientists in the American corporate, university, national laboratory and military sectors. To date, Hertz Fellows collectively possess more than 3,000 patents, have founded more than 200 companies and have received more than 200 major national and international awards, including eight Breakthrough Prizes in Science, a Fields Medal, a Turing Award and two Nobel Prizes.

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation is a not-for-profit organization changing the world around us by granting freedom of American scientific research and innovation through fellowship and financial support. Celebrating 60 years in 2017, the Hertz Fellowship is the most exclusive fellowship program in the world. Our 1,200 Hertz Fellows are the leaders, shapers and disruptors of American science, engineering and mathematics. For more information on the Hertz Foundation and the innovations led by our Hertz Fellows please visit