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As a public-high-school student, Joseph Bordogna beat the odds facing his peer group–Philadelphia’s inner city kids–and won the General Electric Prize for ranking highest in his class. On a naval ROTC scholarship, he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. Today he is the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Engineering at Penn–and an activist focused on improving K-12 education.

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Bordogna won a Whitney Fellowship to MIT, but before enrolling, he worked at RCA in Camden, NJ, for a year to refine his academic interests. After earning his MIT degree in electrical engineering and computer science, he returned to RCA, where he worked in communication systems, radar, transistor technology, holography, and lasers. By 1964, he had earned a PhD in electrical engineering at Penn. He stayed, joined the faculty, and eventually became dean of engineering. In 1990, Bordogna left Penn to become head of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Directorate. By the time he returned to Penn, in 2005, he had become the NSF’s longest-serving deputy director and chief operating officer.

As a teacher, Bordogna spearheaded educational innovations including dual-degree programs in management and technology and in computer and cognitive sciences. For such efforts, he received the IEEE’s 2008 James H. Mulligan Jr. Education Medal. He is also a fellow in prestigious professional groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

For more than 30 years, Bordogna has worked to include underrepresented populations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. He was a founder in 1973 of the Philadelphia Regional Introduction for Minorities to Engineering, and he has served on the boards of several Philadelphia-based organizations devoted to improving K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “We cannot afford to lose one brain,” he says.

He lives in Wynnewood, PA, with his wife, Frances, who teaches elementary school. Their son, Raymond, is a partner and chief strategy officer of the technology consulting firm LiquidHub. “My wife and son do the most important work,” he says. “Educating youth and creating jobs.”

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