Title and Description Page
Early Years 1
Grew up in Gadsden, Alabama. Family background. Curious child; always
wanted to know how and why things worked. By junior high school wanted to be a chemist. Forcible integration; eleven black students. Half left white school before graduation. Determined to succeed. College prep classes. Chemistry, physics, mathematics. Mentors among black elementary teachers. Supportive parents.
College and Graduate School 3
Always dreamt of going to University of California, Berkeley. Mother vetoed
choice. Attending Tuskegee Institute. First woman to major in chemical
engineering. Transfer to Berkeley. Only American woman and only black in
chemical engineering. Racism. Doing well but not being accorded correct grade. Accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) PhD program. More blacks, less hostility. Tough and challenging program. Shirley Mathis McBee. John Turner dean. Thesis topic nucleation phenomena. Advisor Robert C. Reid. Loved demanding atmosphere at MIT. All education on scholarship. First African-American woman to get PhD in chemical engineering, disputed by Lilia Abron.
Career Years 8
First job as research engineer at General Electric Research Center. Next, project manager at Philip Morris, working on supercritical extraction. Then five years as research manager at Rohm and Haas Chemical Company in Philadelphia. Back south to Birmingham, Alabama, as Assistant Executive Vice President at Southern Company Services, working on increasing efficiency of technology. Then 3M Eminent Scholar for three years at Tuskegee University. Developed program for girls; lived in dorm with and mentored about thirty-eight. Technical consultant at Raytheon in Birmingham, Alabama.
General Thoughts 12
No mentors except elementary teachers. Anthony Knowledges, fifth-grade
teacher. Pinkie Bridges, sixth-grade home room teacher. Harry Morrison at
Berkeley. Entire career in industry, but always associated with university.
Balancing demanding career with personal life difficult but rewarding. Married
to best friend. Believes her most important contribution her work on supercritical extraction, which formed basis for subsequent research. Industry does not foster dissemination of scientific knowledge, so not many publications. Would tell aspiring chemical engineers to persevere but to be careful of their health; chemicals are dangerous. Her own physical disabilities as result of chemicals.