Thinking Bigger Together — A Letter from the President

December 13, 2022
Robbee Baker Kosak

I invite you to think big.


Bigger still.

Solutions to the challenges facing our nation and the world require big thinking, bold innovation, unending drive and the ability to interact with colleagues across disciplines.

Whether it’s protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure or improving human health, Hertz Fellows are positioned to take on the biggest challenges, not only because of their exceptional intellect and talent but also their breathtaking commitment and sense of purpose. They are devoted to using their science to serve their nation and humankind and continue to secure our place as the world leader in scientific and technological innovation. For example:

  • Engineers like Syamantak Payra began innovating at age 14, when a teacher paralyzed from post-polio syndrome inspired him to design a robotic leg brace. He has since created digital fibers for electronic garments that can assist in diagnosing illnesses and contributed to prototypes of space suits to better protect astronauts.
  • Cindy Regal, Baur-SPIE Professor at JILA, reported in Nature a major step toward building a quantum internet, which could help solve problems beyond the reach of today’s fastest supercomputers. 
  • Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering and Executive Vice President at Purdue University, will ascend to the presidency of that great public university in January 2023. 
  • Ellen Pawlikowski, retired General for the U.S. Air Force, received the National Academy of Engineering’s Arthur M. Bueche Award for leading the development of game-changing national security space systems and managing innovative aerospace systems.

These four examples of Hertz Fellows’ groundbreaking and transformational work illustrate how the Hertz Foundation — though a small organization — continues to have an outsized impact in the world of science and technology.

This spring, we slowly resumed in-person gatherings — the highlight being the annual Summer Workshop, where fellows came together to explore complex issues in cybersecurity, AI, climate change and STEM inclusivity.

Last month, the board of directors elected Hertz Fellow Stephen Fantone as its new chair. A highly respected board member, Steve will continue the exemplary leadership of David Galas, who brought remarkable generosity and unending dedication to this role for 14 years.

Thanks to our donors, we raised over $9.5 million to support the foundation’s work — our most successful fundraising year to date. An extraordinary gift of $5 million from an anonymous donor in honor of Hertz Fellow Nathan Myhrvold will enable the foundation to create even more fellowships in perpetuity. 

But like the scientists we support, we strive to make a bigger impact, too. 

We want to invest in more people like Syamantak, Cindy, Ellen and Mung, and expand our network of inspired leaders who serve our nation in different ways, from roles in academia to government to industry. In 2023, we’ll be taking major steps to make that happen.

In the new year, we will share the results of our strategic planning process — a plan that envisions the next-generation Hertz Foundation. Through rewarding collaboration with our community, we established the following four pillars to guide our work: 1. Enhance the distinctive features of the Hertz Fellowship program; 2. Extend the value proposition of the one-of-a-kind Hertz community; 3. Increase diversity to fuel innovation and leadership; and 4. Maximize our impact through organizational partnerships. We are grateful to those who have contributed their time, talent and financial support to this effort. 

As John and Fannie Hertz demonstrated decades ago, investment in science and technology can lead to life-changing innovation and enduring impact. We are committed to building on their legacy.

I invite you to join us in expanding the exceptional legacy of the Hertz Foundation — let’s think bigger together. I welcome that conversation and look forward to hearing from you. 

With warm wishes to you and your loved ones for a holiday season and new year filled with good health and joy.

President, Hertz Foundation
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