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CSUF Mathematician Honored at White House
David Pagni
David Pagni
The White House awarded David Pagni as among ten individual recipients of the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

November 23, 2005 :: No. 81

David Pagni, professor of mathematics at Cal State Fullerton and a longtime advocate for mathematics education, has been honored with the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

The Presidential Award recognizes individuals and organizations that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to mentoring students and increasing the participation of minorities, women and disabled students in science, mathematics and engineering.

The annual honor, administered by the National Science Foundation, includes a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work and a Presidential commemorative certificate.

“The significance of this award can’t be overstated,” said CSUF President Milton A. Gordon. “Because mentoring and collaborating with those in our region are part of our mission, it’s especially gratifying that one of our outstanding professors has been honored for his efforts in this arena. This award could not have been received by anyone more deserving.”

This year, 10 individuals and one institution were honored during a Nov. 16 awards ceremony at the White House. Pagni was joined by faculty members from UC Berkeley, Stanford University, State University of New York, University of New Orleans, Boise State University, University of Missouri and Fort Valley State University. UC Irvine was honored as the institutional recipient.

“Cal State Fullerton has provided the support over the years that has enabled me to develop mentoring programs that have impacted so many lives,” said Pagni, who joined the campus in 1969 and has received more than $22 million in grants for programs that help educators and students.

“Articulating and strengthening the partnership between CSUF and local school districts has been my focus over the years; my colleagues and administrators have provided professional support and resources to enable these programs to succeed,” Pagni added. “I was excited to receive this award and honored to bring such prestigious recognition to Cal State Fullerton.”

“Dr. Pagni is a difference-maker. He has truly elevated the mathematics education of scores of students through his work with high school teachers and his mentoring activities. It is great to see him get the recognition he so clearly deserves,” said Steve Murray, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Among the programs Pagni has created is Project MISS, or Mathematics Intensive Summer Session, which he started in 1990 to encourage young women to pursue careers in science and math by providing an intensive four-week skills-building summer course. Since its inception, 98 percent of Project MISS participants have completed high school and entered college — 20 percent majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.  

Pagni also has directed the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Program — part of a Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative funded by the California State University Chancellor’s Office — in which the university works with local high schools to help more students pass the entrance level math exam. He co-directs the Orange County Mathematics Project, a program to enhance the algebra skills of teachers teaching fifth through ninth grades in three area school districts.

In the mid-1990s, Pagni became a “math wizard” during a special program announcing a National Science Foundation grant of more than $6 million to make a systemic change in the way math is taught in elementary schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District. Before an audience of educators, public and university officials, Pagni delighted youngsters as he told them they could all be math wizards themselves with the help of a program that became known as SUMS (Students Using Math Successfully).

In 2002, this math wizard did it again — earning another $6 million-plus grant to enhance teacher training and help students to excel in learning math. The program, Teachers Assisting Students to Excel in Learning Mathematics, partnered the university with four Orange County school districts to reach more than 16,000 high school and middle school students and their teachers to improve academic performance in math. The educator’s achievement was recognized in the Congressional Record.

Pagni also has directed GEARUP-Anaheim (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a program established to increase participants’ academic performance and preparation for college through tutoring and workshops. GEARUP followed an entire class of students from their years at Sycamore Jr. High through Anaheim High School and graduation earlier this year.

“David Pagni never walks, he runs,” said David Fromson, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, about the efforts of the mathematics veteran who began his career teaching at the middle and high school level. “His one concern, his driving concern, is mathematics education for young people in Orange County.”

In addition to his educational endeavors, Pagni created a scholarship to support and mentor students from Santa Ana high schools who have enrolled at Cal State Fullerton as math majors. The scholarship, established in 1995 with a $4,000 gift, has been augmented by donations from other educators and businesses. Scholarship recipients are mentored, and if they successfully complete their coursework, continue to receive the scholarship annually through completion of their degrees. Each year, Pagni and the mayor of Santa Ana present the scholarship to two recipients.

Pagni’s research and methods are reflected in his books, including the “Santa Ana/Fullerton Elementary Mathematics Project (SAFEMAP) Books 1-3” and more than 125 articles in professional journals. He has participated in numerous projects ranging from serving on a test developer panel for the Educational Testing Service and National Science Foundation proposal review panel to participating in the Student and Teacher Educational Partnership at UCI.

In addition to the latest award, Pagni has been honored with the California State University and Cal State Fullerton Outstanding Professor and CSU Wang awards.

Media Contacts: David Pagni, professor of mathematics,
at 657-278-2671 or
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at 657-278-4852 or

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David Pagni


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