Proper Head Count

The 'Women of WPI' article in the Spring 2008 Transformations states that 26 percent of the class of 2008 are women. It seems to me that 26 percent is still lower than it should be, but don’t short-change the progress WPI has made. Although women make up one-quarter of the Class of 2008, the ratio of women to men is 1:3, not 1:4 as stated.

Steve Delfino ’89
Somerville, Mass.

Editor’s note: Oy! We are still smacking our heads over this one. Thanks to Mr. Delfino, who was a math major at WPI, for pointing out our error.

Further Explanation Needed

I enjoyed 'The Women of WPI' in the recent issue of Transformations. I had to laugh at the comment by Mary Farren McDonald ’79 about the men memorizing all the women’s names. That happened to me too, over 20 years later!

One thing I didn’t like was the statement, "For years, girls did not attend institutions like WPI because they weren’t taking the high-level math and science needed for admission." This is whitewashing the sexist reality. Women were not allowed into these institutions for many years because of their gender, and even when they weren’t officially denied, they often couldn’t take the advanced courses needed to get in. My mother grew up in St. Louis, Mo., and went to an all-girls Catholic school. Hardcore math and science just weren’t offered. She was stuck learning cooking and home economics. Women weren’t even encouraged to go to college at all. My mother-in-law—who is a bit younger, grew up in Maine, and went to college in upstate New York—tells me she wanted to be a math major in college, but women were not allowed to take calculus. She had to settle for accounting since it didn’t require the advanced math courses she was excluded from.

The article makes it sound like it was entirely women’s fault that they weren’t entering science and engineering fields.

Kerry Lee Anderson ’03
Brighton, Mass.

Capturing a Snapshot of WPI History

I read your excellent article 'The Women of WPI' with great interest. Women have come a long way at WPI and you have captured the flavor of their presence. There were just a few other notable events in the life of women at WPI that I thought I’d mention. There were two women faculty in 1967, both teaching in the Chemistry Department— Barbara Murphy and I. (I was on loan from Clark University, where I was teaching physiology). I taught molecular biology here and Barbara was a chemistry tenure-track professor. During his tenure here, President Edward Alton Parrish asked a number of us to form a Committee on the Status of Women, which we did. The Committee consisted of elected women members from all facets of women’s life here on campus, with rotating terms of office. We met frequently at Higgins House, where I hosted a number of breakfast meetings. Recognizing that there needed to be a dedicated person to address women’s issues, many of us were on the search committee that brought to campus Stephanie Blaisdell, the predecessor of Michelle Nicholson, director of women’s programs.

Helen G. Vassallo ’82 (MBA)
WPI Professor of Management and Secretary of the Faculty

Correction: Kasia Koscielska ’08 was the recipient of the Meridith D. Wesby Young Leader Award, given by the Women’s Initiative of United Way of Central Massachusetts. Transformations regrets the misinformation in the Spring 2008 issue of the magazine.

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