In Memoriam

George R. Brewster

1939–2021 SWE Fellow, Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award recipient

George R. Brewster, F.SWE, 1985 Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award recipient, and retired manager of salary recruiting at Corning Inc., died May 4. For much of his 34-year career with Corning, Brewster was actively involved in recruiting and supporting women and underrepresented minorities in engineering. He gave many talks on how to choose the right employer, how to interview, and how to succeed in the workplace. He regularly attended SWE and other diversity organization conferences and helped to charter SWE’s Twin Tiers Section in 1979.

Brewster graduated with honors from Northeastern University, earning his B.S. in business in 1961. As an ROTC cadet, upon graduation he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served three years until he was honorably discharged. Entering industry, he worked briefly for Honeywell, then started at Corning as a first line shift supervisor.

In a Grassroots Oral History Project interview, he described how his mother’s experiences made him sensitive to the discrimination women face in traditionally male occupations. In the 1940s, while he was growing up, his mother was one of two women postmasters in the United States. By the 1950s, there were only about a dozen more women in the role. She repeatedly had to defend her position, at one point even hiring a lawyer, as many men resented her. “I remember that was my first experience of trials and tribulations women face in the workforce and how they were minimalized in a male-dominated place,” he noted. “So … I think I had that understanding or empathy for the position that young women had in engineering.”

In the same interview, he described an incident that took place early in his career as a recruiter for Corning in which male employees played a joke on a new female engineer that would rightly be considered sexual harassment, though that language had not come into common usage. Viewing this incident as evidence of the need to transform workplace cultures, Brewster was instrumental in making policy changes at Corning, including an internal education program focused on women in the workplace that covered not only how and why certain policies were needed, but also the penalties and drawbacks of not implementing them.

Brewster’s many contributions to SWE also include: membership on the SWE advisory board; initiating and establishing the Corning Career Guidance Award for sections and collegiate sections; serving as a support person and resource for collegiate sections at several universities; and coordinating with Corning Glass Works the donation of the Steuben bowl to the annual Achievement Award recipient, a tradition that continued for many years.

For his efforts to champion women in engineering, in addition to receiving the Chipp Award, Brewster was named a Fellow in 2002, the year he retired.

Keeping his mother’s legacy in mind, coupled with his personal commitment to diversify the engineering profession, he established a scholarship for female high school girls entering engineering programs, named the Margaret R. Brewster Scholarship.

Brewster is survived by his three sons and their families, which include seven grandchildren. A funeral mass was held June 19 at St. Mary’s Church in Corning, New York. Donations in his memory may be made to All Saints Catholic Parish in Corning, or CareFirst/Hospice in Painted Post, New York.

— Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications

Sources: SWE Archives; Grassroots Oral History Project; Legacy.com

Elayne M. “Sandy” Brower, P.E., F.SWE

1928–2021 SWE Fellow, pioneer, and accomplished pilot

Elayne M. Brower, F.SWE, known as “Sandy,” died Nov. 14, 2021, in Richland, Washington. A pioneer member of the Society, she joined SWE in 1954 while employed in the aerodynamics lab at the David Taylor Model Basin. Brower graduated from Purdue University in 1949 with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, rising above her high school guidance counselor’s efforts to dissuade her with the “fact” that girls could not be engineers or pilots. With the support of her parents, she went on to do both.

Brower’s entry into professional life was difficult. She found that industry was not receptive or interested in hiring a woman engineer, and it took many months before she was finally offered a position with the U.S. Naval Air Development Center in Johnsville, Pennsylvania. There, she worked on aerodynamic design, flight path evaluations, and design modifications to Navy aircraft. She then joined the Navy’s David Taylor Model Basin, where she spent several years before returning to graduate school at the University of Michigan. She graduated with a master’s in nuclear engineering in 1958.

Over the course of her career, Brower worked on interesting projects related to the space program and later, to the oversight of fossil, nuclear, and liquid natural gas power plants in the United States and internationally. She was a licensed professional engineer in Washington and California.

Following several classified positions in space-flight development, in 1965, Brower was hired by Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama, to work on the Saturn V propulsion. There, she was involved in analyzing flow and chemical composition of the exhaust to determine radio flame effects, critical to the astronauts’ ability to maintain radio signal to ground control in the first minutes of the Apollo spacecraft’s liftoff. She became supervisor of the S-IVB stage propulsion group and developed the Apollo flight manual for emergency crew recovery. Moving into work on commercial aircraft, she transferred to Boeing’s Seattle facility. From there, she held positions with the Washington Public Power Supply System and, moving to San Francisco, Bechtel Corporation. She retired in 1993 and returned to Richland, Washington.

Active in SWE throughout her career, Brower served on the executive committee, the forerunner of today’s board of directors, both as a committee member from 1964–66, and as treasurer, 1966–67. A life member and a charter member of the Eastern Washington Section, she became a SWE Fellow in 1985.

Additional professional activities included membership in the National Society of Professional Engineers, where she served as a program manager and developed a reorientation program for former aerospace engineers. Under sponsorship from the United States Department of Labor, this training and educational program supported engineers transitioning from aerospace to heavy construction industries. Brower also published a number of technical papers, and was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Brower’s love of aviation led her to become an accomplished pilot and an active member of the Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots. When she made the move from Boeing’s facility in Huntsville to Seattle, Brower flew solo in her own plane across the United States. Also active in the Girl Scouts, Brower maintained her membership from childhood into retirement.

In her student days at Purdue, Brower was one of a small group of women mentored by the renowned Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Ph.D., known affectionately as “the first lady of engineering.” With Dr. Gilbreth’s support and direction, the group established Pi Omicron Women Engineers Club, which later became the SWE student/collegiate section at Purdue.

Services were held Nov. 23 in Richland. Donations in Brower’s memory may be made to the Macular Degeneration Foundation, the Braille Institute, or an animal rescue shelter.

— Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications

Sources: SWE Archives, personal correspondence, https://www.sunsetgardenstricities.com/obituary/2021/11/elayne-brower/

Darlyne C. Fuller, F.SWE

1935–2020 SWE Fellow, first woman president of the Colorado Engineering Council

Word recently reached SWE that Darlyne C. Fuller, F.SWE, died in June 2020. A longtime member based in Denver, she graduated from the University of Denver in 1958 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. Fuller’s career included various positions with Stearns-Roger Corp., Martin Marietta Corp., and Lockheed Martin. Much of her work involved high-level responsibilities for power plants located in the western United States. In these positions, she was able to encourage other women engineers by her personal example and counsel. She also was an instructor of electronic circuits at Metro State College.

Fuller brought great visibility to women engineers throughout the region, most notably through her involvement in the Colorado Engineering Council. This umbrella organization consisted, at the time, of 25 engineering societies with local chapters in the Rocky Mountain area. Fuller was the SWE representative to the council, and later was elected to every office. She became president for the 1981–82 term, the first woman to hold the position in the organization’s then 64-year history. Following her term as president, she served as a director.

Fuller joined SWE in 1963. On the section level, she served as Denver section chairman — as the position was designated at the time — as well as section representative, secretary, and chair of several committees. She represented the section at local science fairs, and spoke at career development seminars. On the Society level, Fuller chaired the scholarship committee, the career information committee, and the tours committee for the 1976 annual convention. She was also a member of IEEE.

As a successful engineer, wife, and mother, with a busy career and community activities, Fuller was a role model who elevated the stature of women engineers in the region. She retired in 1999, remaining involved in the community through volunteer activities at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the performing arts center at the University of Denver.

Fuller is survived by her sister, her two children and their families, including four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Services were held June 10. Donations in her memory can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.

— Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications

Sources: SWE Archives, personal correspondence, https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/14961686/Darlyne-C-Fuller

Mary Louise Pottle

1926–2021 Founding member of SWE Boston, human rights advocate

Mary Louise Pottle was among the early women graduates from Northeastern University’s department of mechanical engineering and one of the four founders of the SWE Boston Section. Graduating from Northeastern in 1948, she went to work for Allis-Chalmers as a sales engineer.

Pottle joined SWE in 1951, and was elected chairman (i.e., president) of the New England (now the Boston) Section that year. Pottle served in various leadership positions in the New England Section during the 1950s, including several times as chairman. She also served as New England Section director, meaning she represented the section on SWE’s board of directors in FY53; and served as a director-at-large FY54 and FY55. She represented SWE on the Engineering Societies of New England Council.

She was profiled in an early issue of the SWE Journal (vol. 4, issue 3). The article sheds light on the significance of her experience at Northeastern:

“While in high school she wanted to take mechanical drawing and was told, ‘Girls don’t do that.’ Here, she decided, was a girl who would. Later, when she decided to study mathematics and applied sciences and, of course, mechanical drawing, an admissions officer at Northeastern University suggested she enroll as an engineering student.

During her undergraduate years she did some part-time surveying and was a laboratory assistant to one of her teachers, who at first had seemed hostile to women in engineering and had later proved to be a true friend.”

Pottle’s deepest desire, however, was to teach. Through a series of coincidences and chance meetings, she later found a teaching position with the Braintree Public Schools. Pottle made the most of the opportunity, receiving a master’s degree in secondary education, establishing calculus classes at the high school, and encouraging students to study engineering. She spent the rest of her working years teaching.

A strong commitment to human rights was expressed early in Pottle’s professional life during a pivotal moment when the Society’s 1957 convention was held in Houston. In this Jim Crow era, with segregation in the South being the norm, Pottle called the hotel to make room reservations for the Boston members, which included one African American member. (Though unnamed in the interview, that member was Inez “Bambi” Hazel.) The hotel refused to book a room for her but offered that she could attend daily activities, provided she would always be accompanied by a white person. Pottle told the hotel it was unacceptable and decided that none of the SWE Boston members would attend. “So, I called National [headquarters] and I said Boston will NOT participate this year. Thank you. We will not, as long as you’re going to places that discriminate. We want no part of it.”1

For more than 20 years, Pottle was president of the South Shore Coalition for Human Rights. She worked tirelessly on improving housing, literacy programs, and health care, as well as providing advocacy for Zimbabwean students and families, and contributed her time and energy to many other human-rights-based organizations.

Pottle died June 22, 2021, and was remembered as a woman who lived a life of passion, love, and integrity.

— Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications

Sources: SWE archives; SWE Boston “Boston Women of Influence Series”; https://legcy.co/3tR9ZNG

Endnote
At the 1957 convention, another African American member, Yvonne Young Clark, P.E., F.SWE, did attend and was refused a room at the hotel, despite a prior assurance that her reservation was accepted. SWE threatened to move the conference from the site, so a compromise similar to the one offered to Pottle and SWE Boston was put in place. SWE’s strategy was to make sure Clark was highly visible. Reflecting on the experience years later in an oral history interview, Clark said, “We had a ball” flouting the management’s policies. Following the 1957 convention, the Society instituted a policy that conventions had to provide “equal accommodations” for African American members. As it turned out, SWE did not hold another convention below the Mason Dixon Line until civil rights laws were enacted, making the policy moot.

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