Earlham Alumna receives Medal of Freedom from President Obama
November 17, 2016
Margaret H. Hamilton ’58 — a computer scientist who helped create the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle — has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Hamilton was one of 21 distinguished Americans who received the award from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House on November 22, 2016. Other recipients this year include Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Ellen DeGeneres and Bruce Springsteen.
At Earlham, Hamilton majored in mathematics and philosophy. She deferred entry into a doctoral program in abstract mathematics in order to work on the fledging space program. She directed the on-board flight software project for the Apollo and Skylab projects while serving as director of the software engineering division of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She became a pioneer in the systems engineering and software development industry. Later, she helped define system software requirements for the Space Shuttle program. Hamilton is founder and CEO of Hamilton Technologies, Inc., which designs systems and develops software based on a paradigm known as “Development Before the Fact.” In 1986, she received the Augusta Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing, and in 2009 Earlham presented Hamilton with the Outstanding Alumni Award.
In the official announcement of the award, President Obama said, "The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor — it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."
Earlham President David Dawson added these words of congratulations, "On behalf of the entire Earlham community, I congratulate Margaret Hamilton on this incredible and well deserved honor. Margaret is a wonderful example of what we hope for all Earlhamites: that they will be able to use their intelligence, multidisciplinary interests, curiosity and innovative spirit to contribute to positive change in the world. In particular, she is an inspiration to young women scientists who can look at her as a reminder for what is possible. Her incredible accomplishments make us all proud to be Earlhamites."
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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."
Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and firstname.lastname@example.org.