Rush Holt, the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a former Congressman from New Jersey’s 12th District, was presented the Paige D. L’Hommedieu Award, the highest citation given by Middlesex County College. The award, named for the founding chairperson of the College’s Board of Trustees, was presented at the College’s Fall Convocation on August 31.
“Over his distinguished career, Dr. Holt has been a teacher, a scientist, an administrator and a policymaker,” said MCC President Joann La Perla-Morales. “Dr. Holt has been committed to education, public service and the betterment of the community throughout his career both as a faculty member at Swarthmore College where he taught physics, public policy and religion courses, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional district from 1999 to 2015. Middlesex County and Middlesex County College were fortunate to have been represented by Congressman Holt for those 16 years. As a member of the committee on Education and Workforce and on the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, the Honorable Rush Holt represented and fought to keep higher education accessible for all of our citizens.”
Dr. Holt was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a Department of Energy national lab, which is the largest research facility of Princeton University and one of the largest alternative energy research facilities in the country. He also served on the faculty of Swarthmore College, where he taught courses in physics and public policy. In 1982, he took leave from Swarthmore to serve as an AAAS/American Physical Society Science and Technology Policy Fellow on Capitol Hill. The program places outstanding scientists and engineers in executive, legislative, and Congressional branch assignments. He calls his fellowship “life changing,” and served as a springboard to his role in Congress, where he served for 16 years. He established a long track record of advocacy for federal investment in research and development, science education and innovation.
He served on the National Commission on the Teaching of Mathematics and Science, founded the Congressional Research and Development Caucus, and served as a co-chair of the Biomedical Research Caucus. Dr. Holt served eight years on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and, from 2007 to 2010, chaired the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, which worked to strengthen legislative oversight of the intelligence community.
Dr. Holt and his wife established the Congressman Rush Holt /Dr. Margaret Lancefield Annual Scholarship for Middlesex County College students and several recipients of the scholarship were in the audience.
“This L’Hommedieu award means a great deal to me,” Dr. Holt said as he accepted the award. “This place and other community colleges around the country are what we are depending on for the economic and cultural growth of our country.”
He said that New Jersey has many fine private colleges and universities.
“But that’s not where the center of gravity is,” he said. “The center of gravity is here.”
Dr. Holt said that in both his role as a Congressman and as chief of the AAAS, he has worked to integrate science into all aspects of education.
“It’s through science that we learn to ask questions so they can be answered empirically, with evidence,” he said. “Evidenced-based thinking, I’m sorry to say, seems to be eroding.”
In his new role with the AAAS, he said he will continue to advocate for community colleges, and for an emphasis on education for all.
“Especially in the sciences,” he said. “And in the sciences for all students, not just those who in the future will be working in technical fields.”