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Scientist Richard Garwin, architect Frank Gehry awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Two members of the Case Western Reserve University community joined the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jordan, and Bill and Melinda Gates last week, as part of the final class to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Richard Garwin (CIT ’47, HON ’16) and Frank Gehry (HON ’13) were among 21 artists, athletes and innovators to receive the award from President Obama.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor awarded, and is designated for individuals who make significant contributions to “the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Richard Garwin

Garwin was recognized for his scientific contributions to society and work in defense and intelligence technologies throughout a decades-long research career.

After graduating from the Case Institute of Technology, Garwin completed his PhD in physics at just 21 years old under the guidance of physicist Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago.

Early in his career, Garwin spent summers at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, where, in 1950, he played a key role in developing the first hydrogen bomb.

In last week’s award ceremony, President Obama described Garwin as “an architect of the atomic age.”

Garwin’s early contributions helped to cement his lasting role as a scientific adviser and defense researcher. And, as President Obama noted, “for the rest of his life, [Garwin] dedicated himself to reducing the threat of nuclear war.” He has advised nearly every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Beginning in 1958, Garwin consulted the newly established President’s Science Advisory Committee and served as a member of the committee from 1962 to 1965 and 1969 to 1972.

In 1952, Garwin began working at IBM’s research laboratory, where he worked on such projects as low-temperature and condensed matter physics and in nuclear magnetic resonance.

He later served as the company’s director of applied research, director of the Thomas J. Watson Research Center and an IBM fellow, a position he held from 1967 through his official retirement in 1993.

As a fellow, Garwin made contributions to various modern technologies, including touchscreens and laser printing.

He has 47 patents and more than 500 publications to his name. He was elected into the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, and received the Enrico Fermi Award and National Medal of Science from the U.S. government.

Earlier this year, the university awarded Garwin an Honorary Doctor of Science for excellence in his field.

Frank Gehry

The internationally renowned architect Gehry has left his mark on cityscapes across the world, from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. And right here at Case Western Reserve, Gehry designed the Peter B. Lewis Building—known as one of the most architecturally interesting buildings on campus with its swooping angles and stainless steel siding.

Dedicated in the fall of 2002, the five-story, 150,000-square-foot building is today credited with spurring the school’s new emphasis on design in management. After the Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University, Gehry went on to design the Peter B. Lewis Science Center at Princeton University.

After the 2010 World Architecture Survey was released, Gehry was dubbed the “most important architect of our age.”

“He spent his life rethinking shapes and mediums—seemingly the force of gravity itself—the idea of what architecture could be,” President Obama said of Gehry at the ceremony.

Gehry has been recognized for his work with the Pritzker Prize in Architecture, the National Medal of Arts and the Cooper–Hewitt National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. He, alongside his longtime friend, the late Peter B. Lewis, received honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve in 2013.