NASA awarded its highest civilian honor to Institute for Human and Machine Cognition founder and CEO Ken Ford on Thursday during ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
The Distinguished Public Service Medal was given to Ford to honor his "extraordinary work in significantly contributing to and furthering the mission" of the space agency.
"I am deeply honored to be recognized by NASA to receive this very prestigious medal," Ford said. "I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to the NASA mission, and to be involved with so many extraordinary and committed scientists, engineers, and researchers as we work collaboratively toward ground-breaking innovations that make a difference for our nation."
Previous Distinguished Public Service Medal recipients include Charles H. Townes, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Riccardo Giacconi and Harry H. Hess.
"Dr. Ford represents the very best and brightest that Florida has to offer to the nation, and we are so proud to call him one of our own," Gov. Charlie Crist said. "Ken has long contributed to the advancement of our nation's and state's space programs, and he has shown a dedicated commitment to our state that is quite commendable. I join all Floridians in congratulating Dr. Ford on receiving this well-deserved accolade, and thank him for making a difference in space from right here in Florida."
IHMC research scientist Peter Neuhaus described the NASA award as a reflection of Ford's recognized ability to promote discovery, exploration and research at NASA by bringing together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines.
"The award is a testament to his character," Neuhaus said, "which is not just limited to space exploration, or NASA's advisory councils, but also to his contributions to community life in Pensacola and setting higher goals at IHMC that go beyond just performing research."
Thursday's award is the latest given to Ford for his contributions to NASA and other space-related entities.
For the past three years, Ford has served on the NASA Advisory Council, where he currently serves as chairman. The council provides direct strategic counsel and advice to NASA administrator on programs, issues, and trends of clear importance to the agency and nation.
Ford developed and directed NASA's Center of Excellence in Information Technology at the Ames Research Center in California, and in 1999 was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.
From 2003 to 2009, Ford served as a presidential appointee on the National Science Board.
Ford also served several terms as an appointed member of the U.S. Air Force Science Advisory Board.
He has served on the Board of Directors for Space Florida, Inc., to help the state carry out its mission is to strengthen Florida's position as the global leader in aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce.
Ford founded the IHMC at the University of West Florida in the early 1990s.
The not-for-profit research institute now is associated with the Florida University System and is considered one of the nation's premier research organizations in robotics and artificial intelligence. It is headquartered in Pensacola and has a branch in Ocala.