Campus: California State University, Fullerton -- November 28, 2005
CSUF Mathematician Honored at White House With Presidential Award
for Excellence in Mentoring
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
“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
“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
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.
David Pagni, Professor of Mathematics, at (714) 278-2671 or
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at (714) 278-4852 or