Beatrice A. Hicks M.S. ’49 Hon. D.Eng. ’78 Paved the Way for Women in STEM
It takes a spirited person to break down society's barriers.
Stevens graduate Beatrice A. Hicks M.S. ’49 Hon. D.Eng. ’78 (1919-1979) was just such a person.
Hicks trailblazed her way from New Jersey’s Orange High School to a Stevens master’s degree in physics in 1949, more than 20 years before Stevens became a co-ed university. Along the way she became the first woman engineer ever to be hired by Western Electric, where she worked on communications technologies for telephones and aircraft. Later she moved to Newark Controls Company, a family-owned firm, eventually becoming president.
In 1950, Hicks founded and became the first president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), an organization that continues to promote women in STEM fields and maintains a Stevens chapter. Her work on a gas-density sensor was patented and deployed in the powerful Saturn V rockets that launched America's pioneering Apollo moon exploration missions: a breakthrough technology with history-changing impact.
Hicks became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and in 1978 was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2017.
Today, Stevens women comprise nearly 30% of the student population, and these talented students continue the legacy of ambition and accomplishment: Forbes recently ranked Stevens second in the nation for the smallest gender gap in earnings among its graduates.
Beatrice Hicks would doubtless be proud.