Eleanor Baum

Eleanor Baum

Thanks to regular GGSTEM contributor Jill Tietjen for this post:

Eleanor Baum has spent her life breaking down barriers. As reported in the National Enquirer (!), one of the engineering colleges to which she applied did not accept her – as they had no women’s bathrooms! She decided to become an engineer “as a form of rebellion, my way of shocking my parents and teachers” who wanted her to become a high school math teacher.

Electrical engineer Baum was the first female engineering dean in the United States – at The Cooper Union in New York City. When she was an undergraduate student, she was the only female in the engineering class at City College of New York (she graduated in 1959). “I felt very conspicuous,” she said, “but I was stubborn enough to stick it out.” She rose to national and international prominence as a trailblazer in engineering curriculum development and the recruitment of women and minorities to the field. She played leadership roles in a half-dozen professional associations and served on national engineering education committees. Baum was the first female president of the American Society for Engineering Education and also served as the President of ABET.

Baum was very active in recruitment and retention efforts to increase the number of women and minorities in the engineering profession. She served as a role model for women in higher education and was a frequent writer and speaker on topics related to engineering education and recruitment, often as a guest on radio and TV programs. In addition, she was quoted as an authority on Engineering by the press.

Baum undertook groundbreaking and widely disseminated national surveys of women engineers and women engineering undergraduates. The surveys, which dealt with demographics, attitudes, and personality traits, helped define and direct national efforts to recruit more women into the engineering profession. I participated in those surveys.

I interacted with Eleanor over the course of about twenty years and was so pleased when she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  At her induction ceremony, she said she was “delighted” to be inducted. She also told me that she received more attention from the article published in the National Enquirer than any article published in any other publication. She was even asked to be a celebrity judge at the Miss America Pageant because of that article!

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