2017 Honorees

These inaugural inductees were honored during a gala event at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club in Durham on Friday night, September 22, 2017. In his closing remarks for the evening, Chancellor Todd Roberts observed the following: “Altogether, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Maya Ajmera, Joe DeSimone, and Governor Hunt have positively impacted the content and quality of public education for millions of students in our state and beyond, from pre-schoolers to post-docs, and have created conditions for economic growth that can benefit citizens throughout our state, nation and world. Truly, the world is a better place thanks to their good work and leadership.”

Read more about the event, and learn about the 2017 honorees below.

Burroughs Wellcome Fund

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) was established in 1955 to advance biomedical science by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities. The independent, private foundation is dedicated to helping scientists early in their careers develop as independent investigators, and to advancing fields in the basic biomedical sciences that are undervalued or in need or particular encouragement. Also, the Fund  further supports K-12 STEM education in North Carolina through the work of of the Science, Mathematics and Technology Center, which focuses on improving education as a means of providing all students within our state with the knowledge and skills to build successful careers, be good citizens, and grow the economy. Since 1996, the BWF Student Science Enrichment Program has awarded grants totaling $31.9 million to organizations supporting the academic endeavors of nearly 42,620 North Carolina students.

Maya Ajmera ’85

Maya Ajmera is a globally recognized social entrepreneur and science advocate. Ajmera currently serves as president and CEO of Society for Science and the Public and publisher of Science News, which promotes understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role that science plays in human advancement. The organization is known for its world-class science competitions — including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Intel International Science & Engineering Fair and Broadcom MASTERS – and its award-winning journalism. Ajmera previously served as president of The Global Fund for Children (GFC), which she founded in 1993. The nonprofit organization invests in innovative, community-based organizations working with some of the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. To date, GFC has awarded nearly $40 million to more than 700 grassroots organizations in 80 countries, touching the lives of nearly 10 million children.  Ajmera is also a best-selling children’s book author of more than 20 titles.

Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D.

Joseph DeSimone is a chemist, entrepreneur, and investor. He is the co-founder and CEO of Carbon, a technology company in Silicon Valley that focuses on 3D manufacturing using a new technology that they developed called Digital Light Synthesis (DLS). DLS is capable of generating final quality production parts at scale to usher in the new era of 3D manufacturing. DeSimone was the 2008 recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Prize, which honors outstanding mid-career inventors dedicated to improving our world through technological invention, for his invention of PRINT® (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) technology used to manufacture nanocarriers in medicine. More recently, he received the Heinz Award, a national recognition “for integrating the fields of physical, engineering and life sciences to create new products and technologies.” He was also awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama in 2016, the highest honor in the U.S. for achievement and leadership in advancing technological progress. DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State University.

Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.

Governor Jim Hunt served as North Carolina’s Lt. Governor from 1973-1977 and Governor from 1977-1985 and again from 1993-2001. Throughout his political and professional career, he has been a leading advocate for improvement of public education and knowledge-based economic development. During his first administration as Governor, he led establishment of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, an institution since emulated throughout the U.S. and around the world. He is also credited with leading the establishment of kindergarten in North Carolina as well as the Smart Start early childhood education program, for which he received the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. At the national level, he co-chaired the “Committee of 50,” which led to the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy and eventually to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He also chaired the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the National Education Goals Panel, and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Today, Hunt serves as chair of the Hunt Institute for Educational Policy and Leadership, an affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy established in 2001 to work with current and emerging political, business, and education leaders to improve public education.