Christine Mann Darden
Honorary Doctor of Science
Christine Mann Darden is a widely recognized mathematician, data analyst, and aerospace engineer.
From a young age, she had an avid interest in what she calls the "relationship between mathematics and the real world." She received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics education and a teaching certification from Hampton University, then taught for a number of years while pursuing a Master of Science in applied mathematics at Virginia State College.
After Darden completed a master's degree in 1967, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration hired her to serve as one of its "human computers," a role in which she thrived. Yet she was determined to advance beyond the gendered constraints she encountered at the agency. She went on to become one of the few women to hold the title of engineer and launched her decades-long work in sonic-boom minimization. In 1983, she earned a Doctor of Science in mechanical engineering from The George Washington University. In 1989, she became the technical leader of NASA's Sonic Boom Group.
As Darden climbed the ranks at NASA, she established herself as a tireless advocate for women who want to pursue studies and professional opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Eventually, she became the first African American woman at NASA's Langley Research Center to be promoted to the Senior Executive Service, the top rank in the federal civil service. After a career spanning four decades, she retired from NASA in 2007 as director of strategic communications and education.
Darden is the author of more than 50 publications, and her accomplishments have earned numerous recognitions, including the Dr. A.T. Weathers Technical Achievement Award from the National Technical Association in 1985, three Certificates of Outstanding Performance from Langley Research Center, and the Presidential Citizenship Award from Hampton University in 2018.
She is featured in the 2016 book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race." In 2019, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest expression of national appreciation bestowed upon a civilian by the U.S. Congress.