Despite her groundbreaking flights into space, Sally Ride, who died Monday, July 23, of pancreatic cancer, was "very down to earth," said one of Ride's postdoctoral colleagues at Stanford University.
"She knew the impact she had already had as the first woman in space," said Lynn Eden, who is now the associate director of research at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford.
Ride, who was 61 when she died, received her bachelor's degree in English at Stanford and earned her master's and doctoral degrees in physics there before applying to be an astronaut.
She was accepted into NASA's space program and flew aboard the Challenger space shuttle in 1983 and 1984. She also was a member of the committee that investigated the Challenger's explosion in 1986.
Following her pioneering work as an astronaut, she sought to encourage others to explore the realm of science.
Ride returned to Stanford four years after her tour of space. At the university, she was a science fellow for what was then called the Center for International Security and Arms Control (now called CISAC, the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies). This is where she met Eden.
"(Stanford) gave her the ability to refresh herself," Eden said about Ride's return to the university.
Eden said the university was very protective of Ride, something she seemed to want.
"She seemed to be craving to not be in the glare of the public," Eden said. "She was quite private."
While Stanford gave Ride a place away from the public eye, Eden said Ride gave back to the university.
"She was quite a good teacher," Eden said. "And it was great for the fellows to know Sally Ride."
Sidney Drell, a physicist and arms control expert at Stanford, told a writer for CISAC that no matter what task Ride performed, she excelled.
"She was a very private person who shunned publicity, but when she did her job -- whether it was flying in space or working with me on arms control -- she was A1," Drell said.
Ride founded in 2001 Sally Ride Science, which aims to engage and inspire children in math and science. A key part of Ride's mission and the company's goal is to change society's perceptions of women and girls in technical fields, the organization's website states.
Ride's most important contribution to society was "the role she has played, and what I hope her memory will play, of bringing girls and women -- and boys, too -- into an interest in science," Eden said.
Starting on Sunday, Stanford will host the week-long Sally Ride Science Camp for fourth- through ninth-grade girls. The curriculum includes engineering, marine science, astronomy, robotics and ecology. The overnight camps are held at five universities across the country.
"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism -- and literally changed the face of America's space program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated in a press release. "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers."
Ride received numerous honors and awards during the course of her career, according to NASA. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame and received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award.