Leading Researcher Richard Tapia to Give Commencement Address

Richard Tapia, a leading researcher in the computational and mathematical sciences and a national leader in diversity education and outreach, will deliver the keynote address at Harvey Mudd College’s 59th Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 14, 2017.

Tapia is a mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University. He is an internationally known researcher, a national leader in diversity and director of Rice’s Center for Excellence and Equity in Education.

He was born in Los Angeles to parents who, separately, immigrated from Mexico as young teenagers in search of educational opportunities. Tapia was the first in his family to attend college, receiving his B.A., M.A. and PhD in mathematics from UCLA. He taught at University of Wisconsin before joining Rice, and is also an adjunct faculty member at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston.

While at Rice, Tapia has directed or co-directed more underrepresented minority and women doctoral recipients in science and engineering than anyone in the country and has led several programs that have brought recognition to the university’s commitment to diversity. Tapia was the first Hispanic elected to the National Academy of Engineering and has received many honors including the National Science Foundation’s inaugural Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring; the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and the Distinguished Service to the Profession Award from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Tapia has authored or co-authored two books and more than 100 mathematical research papers. He has delivered numerous invited addresses at national and international mathematical conferences and has served on several national advisory boards, including the National Science Board and the National Research Council’s Board on Higher Education and the Workforce, where he served as chair.

Two professional conferences have been named in his honor: the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference and the Blackwell-Tapia Conference, whose founders described Tapia as a seminal figure who inspired a generation of African-American, Native American and Latino/Latina students to pursue careers in mathematics.

The College’s 59th Commencement will be held at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, May 14, 2017, on the Harvey S. Mudd Quadrangle.