University of San Francisco Fromm Institute Astronomy Professor Andrew Fraknoi to Receive 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award in Space Education from the National Space Club

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (March 12, 2019) — The National Space Club (NSC) has awarded the 2019 Space Educator: Lifetime Achievement Award to Andrew Fraknoi, Astronomy Professor at the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco (USF). Fraknoi is the first astronomy educator to receive the prize. Fraknoi will receive his award at the NSC’s 62nd Annual Robert Goddard Memorial Dinner on Friday, March 22 in Washington DC, in the company of 2,000 aerospace industry, exploration, and education leaders.

The prestigious award generally recognizes secondary school teachers active in teaching space science, but is occasionally given to individuals in the wider world for a lifetime of contributions to space or space-science education. Previous winners have included teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan and several educational leaders at NASA, including R. Lynn Bondurant and Kerry Joels.  

Prior to his current work at the USF Fromm Institute, Fraknoi was Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College in Los Altos, California for 25 years. He previously served for 14 years as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization, founded in 1889.

The award citation lauds Fraknoi for “his career as an award-winning astronomy educator, innovator, author, and key link communicating our expanding knowledge of the universe.” It adds, “His books, textbooks, virtual curriculum, public activities, and interaction with students and audiences numbering in the thousands have inspired and engaged the American public in the exploration of space.”

Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, Fraknoi also taught introductory astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, Canada College, and the University of California Extension Division during his 45-year career. At Foothill College, approximately 900 students each year took his courses and labs.  

For 19 years, he has been organizing the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures held at Foothill College and co-sponsored by NASA’s Ames Research Center and other organizations. The free series brings large local audiences to hear noted astronomers discuss new developments in space science. The series has over 2.4 million views on YouTube.

In the last few years, Fraknoi has served as the Lead Author of Astronomy, a free, open-source introductory textbook, published by the non-profit OpenStax Project at Rice University, supported by the Hewlett, Gates and other foundations. The book is now in use in over 500 universities, colleges, and schools in the U.S., saving millions of dollars of textbook costs for students.

While Executive Director, Fraknoi worked to expand the scope and educational activities of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He built their non-profit catalog of educational materials into a million-dollar-a-year enterprise, developing classroom activity collections, educational games, and observing tools that are still in use today. He started and developed the Society’s newsletter on astronomy teaching and introduced their workshops for teachers, which have trained thousands of K-12 educators in how to incorporate astronomy more effectively in their classrooms.  

He founded and directed Project ASTRO, through which professional and amateur astronomers were trained together with local teachers, and then “adopted” a classroom for a year or more, visiting regularly to lead hands-on astronomy activities.  The project ultimately offered training through a dozen regional centers distributed around the U.S. An off-shoot of the program, Family ASTRO, created activities and games that allow families to enjoy astronomy together.

In addition to textbooks, Fraknoi has written two children’s books, several books to guide teachers and college instructors, and has been the scientific editor of two collections of science and science fiction. He has written science fiction himself, with two of his stories having been published in recent anthologies. With Sidney Wolff, he co-founded and co-edited the journal Astronomy Education Review. Over the last 30 years, he has appeared frequently on regional and national radio programs, explaining astronomical developments in everyday language. His TV appearances have included MSNBC, the Today Show, and Larry King Live.

Fraknoi has served on the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute since its inception and is currently Vice-chair of the Lick Observatory Council. He is an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and a Fellow of the California Academy of Science. His other awards have included the Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society (then called the Annenberg Foundation Prize), the Gemant Prize of the American Institute of Physics, the Klumpke-Roberts Award for astronomy outreach of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the Faraday Prize for science popularization of the National Science Teachers Association.

In 1992, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi to honor his contributions to the public understanding of science. Learn more about Andrew Fraknoi’s work here.

About the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco

The Fromm Institute is a "University within a University" offering daytime courses for retired adults over 50 years of age. Founded by Alfred and Hanna Fromm in 1976, the Institute offers intellectual stimulation and introduces its members to a wide range of college level learning opportunities with full access to the facilities and services at USF. The Institute has a firm commitment to learning and believes that older students should be able to learn within a peer setting and be taught by emeritus professors of their own age.

About the National Space Club

The National Space Club is a non-profit organization devoted to fostering excellence in space activity through interaction between industry and government, and through a continuing program of educational support. It offers a number of other awards to recognize significant achievement in space science and space enterprise.