SWE past president and Fellow, designed U.S. postal stamp honoring the First Lady of Engineering
Sharon Varian Loeffler, F.SWE, was born in Colorado in 1943, grew up in Oklahoma, and spent much of her working life in Texas, considering each locale to be a place where she developed deep roots.
Solving puzzles was one of Loeffler’s favorite activities growing up. This, along with her interest in science, led her mother — a physician, and one half of a dual physician couple — to recommend that she study engineering. Taking this advice, Loeffler entered the engineering program at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she joined the Society of Women Engineers in her first year and was one of a handful of women in her class.
Loeffler graduated in 1966 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. She began her career at Dow Chemical and advanced through the ranks there, becoming a project leader in polyolefin polycarbonate research at Dow’s Texas Division. She developed a number of innovations that the company regarded as trade secrets before moving on to positions at Dowell Schlumberger Inc. as a development scientist, and to Telos Federal Systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where she worked on the design and implementation of operating systems for military computers.
In 1969, she became a charter member of what was then called the Texas Section and served the section in every leadership capacity. Loeffler was elected to SWE’s executive committee — the equivalent of today’s board of directors — in 1975. She became the national treasurer, second vice president, first vice president, and from 1980–81 served as SWE president. Loeffler also sat on the American Association of Engineering Societies board of governors during 1981.
A unique opportunity was presented when Loeffler submitted the winning submission to a contest sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers to design a postal stamp honoring Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Ph.D., otherwise known as the “First Lady of Engineering.” It took several years, but in 1984, the U.S. Postal Service issued the commemorative stamp, with Loeffler donating the $500 prize money to SWE’s Lillian Moller Gilbreth Memorial Scholarship fund.
Loeffler was named a SWE Fellow in 1990. Put forward by the Dallas Section, the summary nominating statement noted her many contributions on the local and national levels and concluded that “through her accomplishments in her professional life, she has been an exemplary role model for students and SWE members alike.”
In her retirement, Loeffler turned her stamp collecting hobby into a small business, Black Cat Philatelic.
She died Feb. 3, 2021, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is survived by siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. The family requested that donations in Loeffler’s memory be made to the SWE Past Presidents Scholarship Fund, found under “Donate” on swe.org.
By Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications
Sources: SWE Archives; Tulsa World