Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
Memorial Service for Dr. John Hopps
June 11, 2004
It is an honor for all of us here from the National Science Foundation
to join all of you in recognizing the life of Dr. John Hopps. John
was held in eminently high regard as a scientist, educator, innovator,
role model, and friend. He embraced each role as a personal mission.
In his three years as director of the National Science Foundation's
Materials Research Division, John brought passion to his leadership
task. He cared deeply about the success of each program and each
person. He came to NSF from Charles Stark Draper Laboratory on
a temporary detail, which he turned into a permanent legacy of
growth and transformation in the materials research field.
John was instrumental in launching one of the first federal programs
in nanoscale research and fabrication. In the early 1990s, the
term "molecular nanotechnology" had been in the industry
lexicon only a few years. Public funding was still a high-stakes
gamble--an investment at the far frontiers of science and engineering.
In singling out the "Nano 95" program for NSF investment,
John recognized the imperative for developing a U.S. strategy to
meet the emerging international competition. Eventually, these
initial steps at NSF would lead to a national nanotechnology initiative.
John also knew that materials research naturally cuts across and
integrates, multiple disciplines. He helped transform the NSF-funded
materials research labs into Materials research science and engineering
centers. The new Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers--or
MRSECs, as we call them--embrace multiple disciplines, attract
partners from both academe and industry, and integrate research
and education into one package.
He helped change the process of funding MRSECs from one based
on tradition to one that required open, merit-based competition.
John was committed to excellence in education, as those of you
in the Morehouse community well know, and he ensured that education
was a prime component of the new MRSECs.
Even after leaving NSF, he continued to influence our educational
initiatives, by working with NSF to start a Research Experience
for Undergraduates program within the Department of Defense. The
REU program provides hands-on research experience for students
considering careers in science and engineering.
Before he left NSF, John took another step in advancing cross-cutting
research and education. He was appointed to help set up an Office
of Multidisciplinary Activities within the Mathematics and Physical
John was an enabler--who took each emerging idea that was bubbling
up in the community, and transformed it into a groundswell of progress
and public support. He did that frequently at NSF. As just one
example, a special one for me, I enjoyed the great privilege of
spending many evening hours plotting with John on these ideas in
my NSF office or at dinner.
John was friendly, outgoing, and considerate, always aware of
the people around him and their needs. He took an interest in others'
ideas--on scientific topics, on management, and on working conditions.
He will be remembered for his ability to channel the energy of
conflict into positive directions, and for his lively conversations
around the proverbial water cooler, pipe in hand.
Among his colleagues at NSF, his warmth and enthusiasm were deeply
felt. Likewise, his loss will be deeply mourned. His legacy, however,
will be borne out in the future of materials research and education
as well as in the larger science, engineering, and academic communities.
Paraphrasing the words of John Paul Jones, John Hopps was a gentleman
of punctilious courtesy and the nicest sense of personal honor.
Those whose lives were touched by his hard work and commitment
unanimously agree that he was a unique and benevolent spirit.
Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.