Wednesday, October 16, 2013

1st Decade of Women at Stevens -An Interview with Alum Eleni Coyle

Pictures of Eleni Coyle, her husband Jim Coyle, her roommate, and friends.

Part 2 of Ada's Legacy Series. This Friday the College of Arts and Letters will be hosting a conference, "An interdisciplinary Conference Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace". The Library wants to celebrate the legacy of Ada Lovelace by posting blogs by Stevens Students written during Professor Lee Vinsel's, History of Stevens course last semester about the history of women at Stevens. The students researched the library's special collections to discover pictures and information about this important time.

By Dana Lyons & Devin Corson, Class of '13
 As women at Stevens in the new millennium, it would be really interesting to find out what life at Stevens was like in the very first decade women entered.  Eleni Coyle entered the Stevens community in 1979 and graduated in 1983 with her Bachelors and Masters in Chemical Engineering.  She was able to give us some perspective on the end of this first decade of women at Stevens.

The journey of being a woman at Stevens begins before freshman year—the women must be brought up strong and confident.  In Eleni’s case, her father was the role model in her life that made it possible to earn her degree.  Reflecting upon her fond memories Eleni notes, “When I was a teenager he had instilled in me that I could have the same career goals as my brothers, if I wanted to, and that a good career is fundamental to a secure future.  He had instilled a love of math to me and he had also brought me with him to various factories where I became curious as to the operation of machinery etc., leading me to study engineering.”

The professors at Stevens welcomed the idea of women attending with open arms, as far as Eleni could tell.  With a bit of a smirk she stated, “My professors were fair minded people.  Having said that, I will never forget the rare exception to my previous statement, where even though I was sitting in the front row, a certain professor insisted in greeting the class as "Hello gentlemen".  I heard that he later transferred to NJIT :)” Eleni was offered the position of Head Physics proctor, and later when she was studying for her masters at Stevens she received a Fellowship from the Plastics Institute of America.

The class sizes were smaller then, and the women in each were definitely in short supply.  She mentioned that there were only 5 women who graduated with her in the Chemical Engineering department in ’83.  However, she and the women around her did not feel hindered in any way due to their gender.  They felt like they could do anything.  Even as few as they were they made their presence known and made a huge splash both in and out of the classroom by joining extracurricular activates.  Eleni even cofounded the Philosophy Club. Eleni went on to work at various companies doing chemical engineering, but eventually found her passion teaching high school seniors Chemistry and Physics.

To wrap up her feelings about her stay at Stevens she said, “My overall experience at Stevens was outstanding and that is why I was very happy when three of my four sons decided to attend Stevens.  Academically it prepared me with a rigorous curriculum. It empowered me to know that I could handle any job.  Personally, I met my husband there so that was an added perk :)” Side note: she and her husband were freshman chemistry lab partners.  We will leave you to enjoy how ironic and the endearing that fact is.

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