Kate Gleason and Cornell Engineering women

Celebrating 140 Years of Women at Cornell Engineering

Prior to gaining renown as an industrialist, banker, inventor, and land developer — before anyone referred to her as the “First Lady of Gearing” or the “Marie Curie of Machine Tooling” — Kate Gleason was a Cornellian known as “Sibley Kate.”  

Among her fellow first-year engineering students in Sibley Hall, then home to Cornell’s Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanic Arts, Gleason certainly stood out. Upon enrolling in 1884, she had become the first woman to ever study engineering at Cornell. 

“We are all tremendously proud to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Kate Gleason breaking this barrier, as well as all of the women engineers and leaders who have subsequently been educated at Cornell Engineering,” said Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. “This milestone speaks to the foresight of Cornell’s founders in making inclusion a fundamental and enduring part of our institutional mission, as well as to the courage and determination of Gleason and those who followed in her footsteps.” 

Genuine commitment to "...any person...any study"

In 1868, at the opening of the university that bears his name, Ezra Cornell famously declared that he “would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” The year before, he had written that his intent was to “have girls educated in the university as well as boys so that they may have the same opportunity.” 150 years after the university opened, and 134 years after Gleason arrived as a student, Cornell Engineering's undergraduate population reached gender parity in 2018. This achievement continues to have deep resonance for many community members, even those who did not attend Cornell as students.

“This history is important to me, because it makes me feel like the commitment to 'any person...any study' is genuine," said Susan Daniel, the director of the Robert Frederick School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who is among the largest cohort of women faculty leaders in the college's history. "I want to be in an authentic place that truly cares about those things. At the end of the day, this place is about changing young people’s lives and giving all students the tools they need to be successful.” 

Honoring Gleason's legacy — together

It is difficult, if not impossible, to fully capture Gleason’s legacy. The following collection of stories gathers just a fraction of the current and former Cornell Engineering undergraduates, graduates, and postdoctoral scholars who have come through Cornell Engineering over the last 140 years.

It is a list that we intend to grow — with your help. All are invited to recommend additions, including sharing their own stories, via the submission button at the very bottom of the page. 

1884-2024: Women of Cornell Engineering

Kate Gleason

"The First Lady of Gearing"

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney

The First Graduate

Olive Dennis

"The Engineer of Service"

Dorothy Allison Carlin

A Hand in Highly Traveled Hubs

Billie Nelson

"The Future Must Be Created"

Marjorie Hart

“Get Out Into the Real World”

Miriam Salpeter

A Pioneering Postdoc

Jill Tarter

Leading the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Sherri Stuewer

Working for Change, Giving Back

Elissa Sterry

From Engineer To VP and Everything In Between

Rebecca Robertson

“A Completely Ruthless Truth-seeker”

Yonn Rasmussen

Leading Students and Global Technical Organizations

Linda Schadler

Shaping the Next Generation of Engineers

Margaret Martonosi

Nurturing Diversity in STEM Fields

Nadine Aubry

Attaining the Highest Honors

Rose Lee

"The Power of Innovation"

Lisa Skeete Tatum

"Accomplish Five Things Every Day"

Debbie Madden

Serial Tech Entrepreneur

Michelle Stevens

At the Forefront of National Security

Lisa M.P. Munoz

“Women in Science Now”

Irene Poh

“What Can I Learn Next?”

Swati Mohan

“Touchdown Confirmed”

Mansi Kasliwal

Astronomical Ambitions

Andrea Ippolito

Empowering Working Mothers

Lena Kourkoutis

Commitment to All-Around Excellence

Esther Park

Connecting Chemical Engineering and Patient Care

Abena Sackey Ojetayo

From Civil Engineering to City Hall

Joanna Dai

Addressing the Need for Comfy Corporate Attire

Danielle Regis

Cultivating Excitement for STEM

Malika Grayson

“Just Go For It”

Elizabeth Wayne

Hacking Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Abigail Macaluso, Catherine Gurecky and Madeline Dubelier

Setting the Record Straight

Jego Fonseca

Inspiring — and Inspired By — Family

Molly Eron

Bridging the Health Care Divide

Gloria Davidova

Integrating Theory with Technology

Natalia Urbas

Mentoring Girls of Color in STEM

Sara Miller

Looking for Life in the Oceans of Europa

Nidhi Sonwalker

Exploring the Unknown

Ashley and Verena Padres

Reaching for the Stars