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France A. Córdova papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 3

Scope and Contents

The France A. Córdova papers (1965-2012; 10.65 cubic feet) document the life and career of France A. Córdova.  The bulk of the materials relate to Córdova’s work in academia.  The collection primarily covers Córdova’s research and career, with little information or materials regarding her earlier years, personal life, or various appointments with governmental organizations (such as NASA or the NSF).  This collection will particularly useful for researchers interested in France Córdova’s research as an astrophysicist and her career in higher education.  Also of note to researchers interested in NASA, astrophysics, or space are Córdova’s slide collections and other printed materials from NASA.  Types of materials include: correspondence, certificates, printed material, slides, photographs, machine-readable media, artifacts, ephemera, etc.  The papers are organized into five series.


  • 1963-2012
  • Other: Majority of material found in 2007-2012
  • Other: Date acquired: 10/01/2009


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyrights belong to Purdue University per deeds of gift.

Biographical Information

France A. Córdova, the eleventh president of Purdue University, was born in 1947 in Paris, France.  Córdova is the oldest of twelve siblings born to her parents, who returned to the United States after her father’s service to the United States’ State Department was complete.  Córdova attended Bishop Amat High School in West Corvina, California and was active in her community and school activities.  In spite of her later interest in astrophysics, she was initially drawn to the liberal arts, graduating cum laude from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in English.  During her tenure at Stanford, Córdova also explored her heritage while doing fieldwork with the Zapotec Indians in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The trip resulted in the publication of a short novel and recipe book which ultimately led to an internship with Mademoiselle that allowed her to travel further after graduation.  These early experiences affected Córdova greatly, and had an impact on her approach as an educator- namely her support of international study, broad-based liberal arts education, and interdisciplinary research. After the Apollo 11 moon landing, Córdova renewed her early interest in science and became fascinated by space.  Her initial exploration of astrophysics began with her appointment as a lab assistant.  While working, she also took classes to gain foundational knowledge in astrophysics before ultimately earning her PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1979.  Her PhD thesis was titled X-Ray Observations of Dwarf Novae, and led to several publications and conference presentations.  This research continued during Córdova’s 10 year appointment at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Córdova first tried her hand at higher education during her four year stint at Pennsylvania State University, where she began as a professor and was promoted to the head of the newly developed Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.  Subsequently, she was selected as the Chief Scientist of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration where she worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and with several other committees. In 1996, she returned to higher education when she was appointed as the vice chancellor for research and professor of physics at University of California, Santa Barbara.  In 2002, she remained in the University of California system but transferred to the Riverside campus as the newly appointed chancellor, where she helped to establish a School of Medicine.  She remained there until her 2007 appointment as Purdue’s eleventh president.  This appointment brought much attention as Córdova was recognized for being the first female as well as the first Hispanic president of Purdue.  Córdova’s time at Purdue was noted for the establishment of the College of Health and Human Sciences, the Global Policy Research Institute, and for improving upon various rankings of the university.  At the conclusion of her five year term in 2012, Córdova served as the chair of the Board of Regents for the Smithsonian Institution, before being appointed in 2014 as the new head of the National Science Foundation.  In addition to her impressive resume and career thus far, Córdova has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, some of which are highlighted throughout the collection. Source(s):


10.65 Cubic Feet

24 boxes, 1 FF folder other_unmapped

2.00 items

2.00 mss._boxes

5.00 mss._boxes

1.00 cubic_foot_boxes

1.00 cubic_foot_boxes

2.00 mss._boxes

8.00 mss._boxes

1.00 shoe_boxes

4.00 flat_box

Arrangement Note

1.  Personal papers, 1971-2012 (1.8 cubic feet).  The personal papers cover a variety of materials from Córdova’s personal files, including certificates recognizing and awarded to Córdova, course materials form courses she taught, publications and reports from her tenure at Purdue, documents regarding various professional organizations of which Córdova was a member, material related to the Nobel Prize ceremony for Purdue professor Eichi Negishi, and miscellaneous other papers.  The teaching materials contain some slides and magazine clippings that have been kept in place in an effort to maintain original order and Córdova’s filing system.  This series should be particularly useful to researchers interested in the scope of Córdova’s career in higher education.  Materials are arranged chronologically by type.  2.  Published Materials, 1975-2012 (2.35 cubic feet).  This series includes articles and reprints written by Córdova, magazines and newspapers with articles about Córdova, and books that were given to a/or owned by Córdova (many of which are inscribed).  Of particular note in this series is a bound copy of Córdova’s PhD thesis.  Materials are arranged chronologically by publication type. 3.  Artifacts, 1963-2012 (3.2 cubic feet).  This series includes various artifacts and ephemera collected by Córdova.  Much of the series consists of plaques and awards received by Córdova and small buttons and pins from the various organizations with which she has been affiliated.  Also included are a few trophies from Córdova’s childhood extracurricular activities, including a speech contest, an award for running, and a first runner up trophy for a Jr Miss competition.  Materials are arranged loosely by type and size. 4.  Audiovisual and Digital Media, 1977-2012 (1.3 cubic feet).  This series consists of photographs, slides, and various machine-readable media.  The photographs primarily document people and events from Córdova’s tenure at Purdue.  The machine readable media consist primarily of backups of Córdova’s files prior to her time at Purdue.  Córdova’s personal slide collection used for lectures and teaching may be of particular note to astrophysicists and researchers of space history- many of the slides were produced by NASA or affiliated organizations.  Materials in this series are arranged chronologically by type. 5.  Oversized  Certificates, Photographs, and Other Materials, 1974-2012 (2 cubic feet). Of note in this series are nomination certificates from both George and George W. Bush, other framed awards from various agencies, and materials relating to the Nobel Prize won by Eichi Negishi.  Materials in this series are arranged chronologically by size.

Source of Acquisition

President's Office

Method of Acquisition

Transfer from Purdue University Development Office via Hadley Thomas, August 5, 2008; Donation by David Lasater, August 5, 2008; Donation by France Córdova, August 8, 2008; Donation by France Córdova, July 8, 2010;  Donation by France Córdova, March 1, 2012; Donation by France Córdova, July 2, 2012; Transfer from Westwood, July 13, 2012

Related Materials

France Córdova Oral History Interview Chris Foster Oral History Interview

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.  Those materials with no pre-existing useable order have been grouped into series and subseries by type and arranged chronologically.  All materials have been placed in archival housing. Most printed and audiovisual materials have been grouped into separate series for preservation purposes.  Oversized maps, blueprints, diagrams, certificates, and other printed material [OVS]; photographs; and artifacts have been separated and grouped into individual series for preservation purposes.
France A. Córdova papers
In Progress
Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States