As part of its mission to uplift education, Vertx Partners spotlights the educators behind great innovators in history.
Nash & Duffin
“He is a mathematical genius,” wrote physicist and undergraduate advisor Richard Duffin, in his recommendation letter for John Nash. Nash, then a 19-year-old from Bluefield, WV, was accepted to Princeton on Duffin’s recommendation. He would go on to revolutionize game theory and advanced mathematics.
Jackson & Smith*
“One of my outstanding teachers was Marie Moss Smith — my high school mathematics teacher, and, almost as importantly, a mentor, proponent, and role model,” said American physicist Shirley Ann Jackson about her mentor, Smith. Smith was a D.C.-based high school teacher descended from enslaved people who worked toward equal rights in her life. Jackson praises Smith for encouraging her to pursue science, becoming the first Black woman to receive a PhD from MIT.
[*Note: There are no publically available pictures of Marie Moss Smith.]
Hickam & Riley
“All I’ve done is give you a book. You have to have the courage to learn what’s inside it,” said Frieda J. Riley to a young Homer Hickam, future American author and NASA engineer. Hickam was one of Riley’s Rocket Boys, a group of WV boys who built personal rockets and aimed for the stars. Riley’s mentorship encouraged Hickam to work for NASA and train the first Japanese astronauts.
Yeager & Boyd
“I wanted a pilot who was rock solid in stability. Yeager came up number one,” explained Maj. Gen. Albert Boyd, considered by many the father of modern USAF flight testing. As leader of the USAF’s effort to break the sound barrier, he selected WV-native Charles “Chuck” Yeager to make the historic flight. On Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Nye & Lang
“He changed my life,” wrote famed science communicator and mechanical engineer, Bill Nye, about his high school physics teacher, George Lang. Nye is candid about the influence Mr. Lang had on his scientific career, which includes inventing a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube for 747 planes. Nye is beloved by children and adults alike who enjoy his ‘90s TV program, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
The “Behind Every Innovator” Campaign
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