historic photos of women at georgia tech

Since 1917

A History of Women at Georgia Tech

In their century-long tenure at Tech, women haven't shied away from making history. Some of the most meaningful milestones are catalogued below.

  • 1917: Georgia Tech's Evening School of Commerce (which would later be transferred to the University of Georgia, and after that become the foundation for Georgia State University) first admits women.
  • 1919: Anna Teitelbaum Wise became the first woman to graduate from the School of Commerce.
  • 1927: Dorothy M. Crosland is promoted from Assistant Librarian to Librarian. In 1945, she was named Woman of the Year in Education and promoted to Director of Libraries in 1953, where she would stay until she retired in 1971. In 1985, the Graduate Addition section of the library was renamed Crosland Tower, which reopened in the fall of 2018 after extensive renovations.
  • 1952: The first women to enroll as undergraduates at Georgia Tech, Elizabeth Herndon and Diane Michel, begin classes on campus. They are only allowed to enroll in programs that aren't offered at other schools. 
  • 1954: Ella Wall Van Leer, wife of President Blake Ragsdale Van Leer, invites the five women enrolled at Tech to her home. Wanting to create a support system for the women, she helped establish Tau Sigma, which eventually became a chapter of the national Alpha Xi Delta sorority — Tech's first sorority chapter.
  • 1956: Diane Michel and Shirley Clements Mewborn are the first women to graduate from Georgia Tech. Mewborn would later go on to serve as the first president of the Alumni Association, and a new softball field bearing her name opened in 2009.

female students with RAT caps

Some of the first female students with their RAT caps.
Credit: Georgia Tech Library Archives

The first women undergraduates on campus in the early 1950s.

  • 1966: Sally Lam Woo is the first Asian woman to graduate from Georgia Tech. Her family emigrated from Hong Kong in 1959, and, after deciding that she wanted to be an engineer, Woo took up residence in Ella Van Leer’s house on Fifth Street, which was still open to female students at the time. Watch her talk about her experiences living in that house.
  • 1968: The Board of Regents allows women to enroll in all programs at Georgia Tech.
  • 1970: The first black women are enrolled at Georgia Tech, including Adesola Kujoure Nurudeen, Tawana Miller, Grace Hammonds, and Clemmie Whatley. Some would go on to attend schools such as Yale, Stanford, MIT, and Mount Holyoke. Some stayed in Atlanta to become public school teachers. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, they introduced computer science into the city's public school curriculum. 
  • 1974: The women’s basketball team plays its first game under coach Jim Culpepper. Though the Yellow Jackets went 6-16 that year, they would end up with a record of 23-4 just three years later. Culpepper and several of the original team members did an interview in 2013 reflecting on the early days of Yellow Jackets women's basketball.

first black women to matriculate were honored in 2010

Some of the first black women to matriculate at Tech were honored at the 2010 Women's Leadership Conference. Credit: Institute Diversity

  • 1979: The Georgia Tech Fact Book lists 836 women admitted that year out of 4,158 students, and 296 women as having received a degree in the previous year.
  • 1981: Bernadette McGlade is named coach of the women’s basketball team. She is the Institute's first full-time female coach. She also served as the women’s sports coordinator and associate athletics director for Sports Programs. In 2012, she was named the Yellow Jackets' 2012 ACC Legend by the Atlantic Coast Conference. McGlade is the first woman to be honored as a Women’s Basketball Legend for her roles as both a player and a coach.
  • 1984: Lisa Volmar, a 1986 graduate, becomes the first woman to drive the Ramblin’ Wreck, integrating female students into one of the most beloved Tech traditions. Four years later, Evelyn Dale Morgan would become the second female Wreck driver.
  • 1996: The first class of women is inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. The class was made up of Teresa Anne Caron (basketball, Class of 1977), Denise Heitman Pool (basketball, Class of 1976), and Carolyn Thigpen (basketball, Class of 1975). Former Coach McGlade would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • 1998: Thanks in part to the advocacy of undergraduate students Jennifer Orr and Vicky Pickens, the Women’s Resource Center is established to help give women a voice on campus. Today, the Center provides support, advocacy, training, and services to enhance women's development at Tech.

first female Reck driver

Lisa Volmar, the first female driver of the Ramblin' Wreck, with the car in 1984.
Credit: Ramblin' Reck Club

women's basketball with coach mcglade

The women's basketball team, coached by Bernadette McGlade.
Credit: Georgia Tech Library Archive

  • 1999: Sue V. Rosser is named dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, becoming Georgia Tech’s first female academic dean. Today, both Ivan Allen and the Scheller College of Business have female deans in Jacqueline Royster and Maryam Alavi, respectively.
  • 1999: That same year, the Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology is established. The Center supports initiatives and activities related to gender, science, and technology, and promotes the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in STEM fields.
  • 2002: On the 50th anniversary of women at Tech, the Fact Book records 2,425 women admitted for the fall semester. Of those, 628 enrolled, and the total female enrollment for the year was 4,460 out of 16,479 students.
  • 2007: The women's tennis team wins Georgia Tech's first and only NCAA team championship, as recorded in the official NCAA record. This includes both male and female sports.
  • 2015: Hillary Degenkolb becomes the first female Wreck driver of the 21st century. That same year, Georgia Tech sees a female Wreck driver, Reck Club president (Zola Zalesky), and Student Government Association president (Jennifer Abrams) for the first time in school history.
  • 2017: Georgia Tech welcomes a first-year class to campus that is 43 percent female, the highest percentage yet. Georgia Tech's total female enrollment for the year is 9,076.
  • 2019: The Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Compiled by Grace Wyner

Updated March 26, 2019

Special thanks to the Georgia Tech Library Archives and Living History Program for documenting this history, and the women of Georgia Tech for living it.