Celebrating 70 Years of Women at Tech

Victor Rogers

Celebrating 70 Years of Women at Tech

It’s hard to imagine Georgia Tech without female students, faculty, staff, and administrators. More women engineers graduate from Georgia Tech than any other program in the nation. The Institute is at a record high enrollment overall, and 40% of the undergraduates are female. The first-year class for 2022 is 42% women.

But during Tech’s first 67 years, women were not allowed in full-time programs. This year marks the 70th anniversary of women enrolling at Georgia Tech.

When the Georgia School of Technology opened in 1888, it offered an industrial and technical education exclusively for men. As the years passed and the school grew, women began filling professional and clerical roles in the library and campus offices. Women were admitted to Tech’s Evening School of Commerce in 1913 and to the Evening School of Applied Sciences in 1920.

ella van leer
Ella Van Leer

The first woman to graduate from a Georgia Tech program was Annie Teitlebaum Wise, a night school student who earned a degree from the School of Commerce in 1919.

Tech’s fifth president, Blake Van Leer, and his family shared a commitment to engineering education for women. His wife, Ella Wall Van Leer, was a graduate of the School of Architecture at the University of California. His daughter, Maryly, earned a chemical engineering degree from Vanderbilt University.  

dorothy murray crosland
Dorothy Murray Crosland

Van Leer enlisted the help of Georgia Tech’s library director, Dorothy Murray Crosland. She had been Tech’s librarian for 20 years and wielded personal influence with several of the Regents and others in the community. Crosland and Ella Van Leer worked for three years to mobilize support for coeducation from local women’s groups, and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta formally petitioned the Board of Regents. Tech’s student council had adopted a resolution favoring the admission of women, and the faculty and administration also supported it.

On April 9, 1952, the Regents voted to admit women on a full-time basis by a vote of 7 to 5. That same year, Elizabeth Herndon and Barbara Diane Michel became the first full-time women students at Georgia Tech.

seventy years logo


Today, the firsts continue for women at Tech. Last year Ellen Bassett was the first woman to be named dean of the College of Design. And this year Marilyn Brown became the first woman to receive the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award, the highest honor given to a Georgia Tech professor.

To mark the 70th anniversary milestone, we asked some of the women who have contributed to Georgia Tech’s growth in leadership, research, and teaching to share thoughts on their early days at Tech, their proudest achievements, changes they would like to see, and advice for the next generation. Here are their stories.

pearl alexander

Pearl Alexander

Executive director, Staff Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement in Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

terry blum

Terry Blum

Tedd Munchak Chair in Entrepreneurship, Scheller College of Business
Faculty director, Institute for Leadership and Social Impact 
ADVANCE Professor 

carol colatrella

Carol Colatrella

Professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Co-director, Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology

melanie demaeyer

Melanie DeMaeyer

Director, Women’s Resource Center, and assistant dean of students, Student Engagement and Well-Being

jennifer herazy

Jennifer Herazy

Associate vice president for Administration and Strategy, Office of the Provost and Office of the Executive Vice President for Research 

abi ivermeyer

Abi Ivemeyer

Graduate of Tech’s joint B.S./M.S. program with degrees in electrical engineering and a focus in power and energy systems, Spring 2021 and Spring 2022
Transmission planning engineer, Southern Company 

Mary Lynn Realff

Mary Lynn Realff

Associate chair for Undergraduate Programs, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Co-director, Center for Women, Science, and Technology 
Director, Effective Team Dynamics Initiative 

catharine ross

Catherine Ross

Harry West Professor of City and Regional Planning, College of Design

Dean Leslie Sharp

Leslie Sharp

Dean of Libraries

marilyn smith

Marilyn Smith

Professor, Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering
Director, Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence

grace swift

Grace Swift

Economics and international affairs major
Vice president, Student Government Association

To read more about women at Tech, check out these features:

Title IX Turns 50  

Echoes of Each Other  

Breaking the Glass Ceiling  


Writing: Victor Rogers
Editing: Kelly Adams, Stacy Braukman
Design: Katya Kouznetsova
Photography: Georgia Tech Library Archives and personal collections of interviewees