President Obama has appointed Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, cofounder and executive director of Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego, to the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
In announcing the appointment of O’Shaughnessy and several others to key administration posts, Obama said, “I am proud that such experienced and committed individuals have agreed to serve the American people in these important roles.”
Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum, welcomed the appointment, applauding O’Shaughnessy’s ongoing commitment to education in STEM, short for science, technology, engineering and math.
“We are pleased that a STEM educator of Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s experience is joining the museum’s Advisory Board, and we look forward to her contributions as we transform the museum for the future,” Dailey said.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of aviation and spaceflight exhibits and artifacts. The collection covers all facets of human flight, including aviation-themed artwork and archives. The museum welcomes more than eight million people a year to its two locations, making it the nation’s most visited museum.
“I am deeply honored to be appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Board for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum,” O’Shaughnessy said. “This magnificent museum inspires people of all ages, from countries around the world. The museum honors the innovations, commitment and courage of the women and men who pushed the boundaries of flight. I am thrilled to do my small part to continue this awe-inspiring mission.”
O’Shaughnessy was the life partner of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. In 2001, Ride, O’Shaughnessy, and three friends founded Sally Ride Science with the goal of narrowing the gender gap in STEM. The company created programs and publications to inspire students, especially girls, to stick with science and math and to consider careers in STEM.
O’Shaughnessy was the company’s chief creative officer, guiding development of the Cool Careers in STEM and Key Concepts in Science programs, as well as chief operating officer. After Ride’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2012, O’Shaughnessy became chair of the Board of Directors and later chief executive officer.
Sally Ride Science became part of UC San Diego in October 2015. O’Shaughnessy was named executive director of the new nonprofit entity, Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego, which is continuing the company’s legacy with innovative new programs. Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego is overseen by UC San Diego Extension in partnership with UCTV, the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
As a member of the National Air and Space Museum’s Advisory Board, O’Shaughnessy will serve with representatives of each military branch, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, along with the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum’s mission is to commemorate America’s development of aviation and spaceflight through preservation, education and research. The museum maintains more than 60,000 artifacts and 20,000 cubic feet of archives. Highlights of the collection include the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. A vast array of other items—including rockets, aircraft, balloons, uniforms, spacesuits, documents and photographs—capture the richness of the history of flight.
In 2015, the National Air and Space Museum acquired the Sally K. Ride Collection, a selection of the pioneering astronaut’s personal possessions and papers. The collection, a gift from O’Shaughnessy, sheds light on Ride’s public life and private interests. Artifacts range from Ride’s childhood microscope and telescope to her NASA mission patches and flight jacket. A selection of items from the collection is on display in the museum’s Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.
O’Shaughnessy grew up in California and played professional tennis from 1971 to 1974. She earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in biology from Georgia State University and a Ph.D. in school psychology from UC Riverside. She is an associate professor emeritus of school psychology at San Diego State University, where she served on the faculty from 2002 to 2007.
O’Shaughnessy has written 12 space- and science-themed books for young readers, including six with Ride. O’Shaughnessy and Ride received the American Institute of Physics Children’s Science Writing Award in 1995 for their book The Third Planet. In 2015 O’Shaughnessy published Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America’s Pioneering Woman in Space.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport.