Anna Kazanjian Longobardo

SWE charter member and Fellow; trailblazer whose motto was, “I have never been afraid to be first.”

longobardo head shot

As an accomplished student, Anna Kazanjian Longobardo enrolled in the pre-engineering program at Barnard College (sister school to the then all-male Columbia University), finished her B.S. in mechanical engineering at Columbia, and in 1949 became the university’s first woman mechanical engineering graduate. During these years, she connected with the fledgling groups of women engineering students at Drexel and other schools, who were organizing to form what would become the national Society of Women Engineers.

She founded the SWE student section at Columbia, where she returned for her master’s, completing it with honors in 1952. She participated in the first International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists, which SWE convened in 1964, and later became president of the New York Section.

Longobardo’s advocacy for women in engineering, her many technical achievements, and deep appreciation for and loyalty to Columbia University formed the core of her professional life. In an oral history interview that is part of the series “Columbia Engineers Share Their Stories,” Longobardo described the impact of a professor’s words, spoken in one of her early engineering classes. He stated that the students were not studying engineering to become technologists, rather they were studying engineering to become leaders. Longobardo went on to do exactly that. Her personal motto was, “I have never been afraid to be first.”

Early in her career, working for American Bosch Arma Corporation, her innovative work in navigational accuracy for submarines operating below periscope depth led her to be one of the first women to work on board U.S. navy submarines and ships. In her SWE oral history, Longobardo shared an amusing story of how an error in The New York Times want ads resulted in her being hired for this position. In 1965, she joined Sperry Corporation, later Unisys, where she held a number of key technology management positions and developed navigational systems for the Saturn missile, the Viking space system, and the Atlas project, among others. When she retired in 1995, she was a senior executive in Unisys Corporation’s defense group and headed a global unit.

Throughout her career, Longobardo participated in many panels and gave talks at career events to encourage young women to study engineering. She was appointed by the governor to serve on the New York State Women’s Council, where she chaired several committees. In addition to her involvement with SWE, she served as director of the Technical Societies Council of New York and was active in ASME and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She was a founder of the Armenian National Science and Education Fund and was a board member of Woodward-Clyde Group Inc.

She founded the SWE student section at Columbia, where she returned for her master’s, completing it with honors in 1952. She participated in the first International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists, which SWE convened in 1964, and later became president of the New York Section.

Longobardo met her engineer husband, Guy, while they were students at Columbia. She wrote and spoke about their marriage as a true partnership, where they shared the responsibilities and joys of a dual-career couple raising children together. Relying on outside help as needed, there was never a question of her giving up her career.

She was the first woman to receive the Columbia University School of Engineering’s Egleston Medal for Distinguished Engineering Achievement. She also received the Columbia University Alumni Medal for Service. She was the first woman president of the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association, chair of the Engineering School Board of Visitors, and the first woman and two-term president of the Columbia University Alumni Federation. From 1990 to 1996, she was an alumni trustee and was a trustee emerita at the time of her death.

Longobardo died Dec. 7, 2020, and is survived by her husband, son, daughter, and their families.

Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications

Sources: SWE Archives; Columbia University; The New York Times

COPYRIGHT 2021 SWE MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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