Founder’s Day 2012 – the fifth annual event to commemorate the establishment of Stevens on Feb. 15, 1870 – showcased the history of women at Stevens and celebrated the historic contributions of the thousands of women who have shaped the University from its formation until today. The event, which was co-sponsored by Women’s Programs in the Office of Student Life and the DeBaun Center for Performing Arts, was part of the University’s ongoing campaign to recognize the 40th anniversary of Stevens becoming fully coeducational.
In a 45-minute performance in DeBaun Auditorium, a group of students, faculty and staff – clad in black, white and Stevens red – provided a historic look at Stevens through the eyes of its women, from Martha Bayard Stevens who helped found the school, to the first class of undergraduate women who entered in 1971, to current female students on campus.
The performance began with four student actresses – Molly Molino, Lauren Harpst, Donna Barden and Emily Hromoda – sharing memories collected from interviews with female alumna who attended Stevens in the 1970s. They shared humorous experiences of adjusting to a male-dominated environment, like being everyone’s favorite lab partner, but having to leave the building to find a women’s restroom. They remembered the lifelong friends they made of both genders – in some cases, their husbands – and expressed gratitude for the career opportunities a Stevens education afforded them. And mostly, they overflowed with pride at being part of a pioneering group of women who paved the way for women in science and technology.
Next, Dr. Maureen Weatherall, vice president and chief administrative officer, took the stage. Serving as host of the event and emcee, she introduced the next segment of the performance – the biographies of the influential women of the Stevens founding family. The student actresses then shared the fascinating life stories of Martha Bayard Stevens, Mary Picton Stevens, Mary Stevens Hammond and Millicent Hammond Fenwick.
Weatherall, the student actresses and other performers – including students Benjamin LaGue and Declan Candela and staff members Linda Vollkommer, Deborah Berkley, Nathalie Waite and Kristie Damell – then explained how women slowly integrated further into academic and social life at Stevens. They described the formation of Stevens War Industry Training School (SWITS), which led to the admission of women to graduate programs in the 1940s. Then came the national women’s rights movement, which brought sweeping changes in institutions of higher learning, including Stevens, which became fully co-educational 40 years ago, in 1971. Soon enough, women were participating in varsity athletics, Glee Club, the Stevens Dramatic Society (SDS) and Greek life. Female-specific student life programs like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) also got their start.
The performance closed with more memories from female alumna from the 1970s as well as current female students about what being a woman at Stevens means to them. The audience left with a simple message: Women have always been an incredibly important part of Stevens and they will continue to be important to the University’s future.
Learn more about the celebration of 40 Years of Women at Stevens at www.stevens.edu/women.