Archives of Women in Science and Engineering
Special Collections Department - Archives of Women in Science and Engineering - Oral History Project
MS 379: Oral History Collection
Interview transcript, 1998
TZB: Could you describe a typical day for yourself at American? What would a typical day be like for you?
NR: A typical day, oh, boy. Well, my husband has to be at school very early at the morning, so we actually—and I can get, if I go early in the morning it only takes me a half hour to get there instead of an hour. So we get up quarter of six and one of the things we started some years ago is we always go out for breakfast. That's our meal together because when I was in the administration we found I often didn't get home for dinner and things, and if we went out for breakfast, we could relax and have breakfast together. So we'd go out. There's a little neighborhood restaurant where we go for breakfast. Then that gets me into the office by about ten after seven usually and fortunately, there's not too many people around at that hour, so that I can deal with—as department chair you get—we have a very—there's just, in the department I have an administrative assistant. I have a woman who runs the store room and the person who is the hazard waste coordinator for the university is in our building and reports to me. So I probably end up signing letters and doing things like that initially in the morning, and the gentleman who does the hazardous waste, he comes in early and he usually comes in and talks to me about what are the latest things that are happening and so forth. Then the administrative assistant comes in at eight and the woman who runs the store room comes in at nine.
I probably spend—just trying to think what would be a typical day—I probably spend a couple hours in a day meeting with individual students, whether it's on working out their financial aid, their academic program, reading resumes, helping them find jobs, whatever. I mean there's just—we have 55 graduate students and we have about 5 seniors, I think 5 juniors, sophomores and so forth. We also have a practice right now in the springtime that if a student wants to take a course at any other institution, like in the summer if they want to take general chemistry somewhere else and transfer it into American, we have a permit to study that they must present to me and then they must bring the course description to me ahead of time and then we complete it so that whatever, if they're going to go home and take general chemistry. This is whether it's for a major, minor or elective, it doesn't matter. Then we complete the forms and so they can then register and it automatically is transferred and so forth. So right now I probably see a couple of those a week.
I'm very active on campus in terms of committees. Actually, after I left the administration I became chair of the faculty senate. This year I'm vice chair. I'm also on the—we have a finance committee and a budget committee of the university. The finance committee is the group of faculty who are elected by the faculty to the senate. Then the budget committee is a larger committee, and this is chaired by the provost and the vice president for finance. So that takes a fair amount of time.
I'm also the NCAA faculty representative for the university, so I get one course release for doing that. That involves everything from certifying the athletes to like we had two very good basketball players this year who we nominated for scholarships to the NCAA. Getting all of these things pulled together and every other week meeting with the student athlete advisory board and so forth.
TZB: That must be pretty time consuming, I would think.
NR: It varies. It can take time. Let's see, I also—what else do I do? I guess that's—because I've been around the campus for a long time and been in both the administration and the faculty, I often get called upon to do various things. Actually, it seems like a long time ago but it was last Sunday night I got a—the university gives awards to faculty for various things and this year I got the award for outstanding service by a faculty member.
NR: It was very nice. I got a standing ovation from all of my colleagues when I got the award.
TZB: I know you've done a lot of work on women chemists and I'm curious to hear how you think groups that have been oriented towards women chemists have helped you and what you think their role is.
NR: Well, I think the first group that I encountered was Iota Sigma Pi. I think you mentioned you knew about Iota Sigma Pi. There were some women in the Nutrition Department at Purdue who were Iota Sigma Pi and were chemists. There weren't any women on the faculty at Purdue in those days. There were a group of graduate students and we actually formed a chapter at Purdue, Iota Sigma Pi, in conjunction with the women in the Home Ec Department and a couple of faculty wives. So I actually was the founding president of the plutonium chapter of Iota Sigma Pi, and they still have a very active chapter there. They're still doing a lot to do things to encourage women in chemistry and so forth, and there's a whole very active women in science program there.
TZB: You've been pretty involved with the Women's Chemist Committee of the American Chemical Society, as well.
TZB: Would you like to talk about that a little bit? I'm sure that takes some of your time.
NR: Well, I was on the Women Chemists Committee from 1973 to 1979 and chair from 1976 to '78 and that was a very exciting time for the Women Chemists Committee because, of course, you had affirmative action in 1972 and the various laws that were changed at that time. It was a time when many universities suddenly were taking women as graduate students and a lot of things were happening.
One of the aspects I will talk about is the Garvan Medal. The Women Chemists Committee had always been the search committee for the Garvan Medal to identify candidates and really the Garvan Medal was the only award that women got for many, many years, but at the time I was chair, the ACS notified us that we were starting to eat into the principal. The endowment was not sufficient because the price of gold had gone up, because it was a gold medal and there was a bronze replica and there was travel expenses. And then the ACS had also decided there should be an honorarium, and the endowment couldn't cover all that. So we actually—I wrote an article for the Chem Engineering News and we ended up raising about $12,000 from contributions, which we added to the fund. So that was one aspect of being on the Women Chemists Committee. Then the other was we became very interested in salary data and so in 1975 a small salary study was done. I think it's about a 20 page report and it clearly showed that women were not being paid as well as men, etc. So the Women Chemists Committee started working and agitating within the ACS and working with the Economic Status Committee, which was another committee, about doing something about the salary questions.
So in 1980, the ACS did a study where they did the survey of all the women in the ACS and 25% of the men, to get data on. It looks at their salaries. It looks at the kind of job, what's their background, all kinds of things, and a committee from the Economic Status Committee, which I was then on, and the Women Chemists Committee proceeded to try and write an interpretation of the data. It took us a year.