Celebrating UC Davis’ Remarkable Women
This article original appeared in UC Davis News on April 30, 2020
A congresswoman, an astronaut, academic groundbreakers, the university’s first female chancellor and more: UC Davis is highlighting 55 of its most significant women in history as part of a celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the admission of women to the University of California.
“The list we compiled is by no means a complete list of all the incredible women at UC Davis; however, it offers a sample of remarkable women across UC Davis,” said Sophie Barbu, assistant director of UC Davis ADVANCE, which is focused on recruitment, advancement and retention of underrepresented populations into ladder-rank faculty positions in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
UC Berkeley is leading the celebration with a website featuring history and a series of events dating back to last fall, and invited other UC campuses to submit lists of significant alumni, faculty and staff in their histories.
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which includes ADVANCE, led the effort to compile the list, and members of the selection committee compiled both recent and early UC Davis figures, including:
- London Breed ’97, the first African American woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco and the second female mayor in the city’s history.
- Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Ph.D. ’97, who became an astronaut in 1998 and went to space in 2007 and 2010, where she logged 188 days in space and three spacewalks.
- Tani Cantil-Sakauye ’80, J.D. ’84, the first Filipina American and second woman to serve as chief justice of California.
- Katherine Esau, Ph.D. ’31, a botanist who later won the National Medal of Science, Esau came to UC Davis to continue research into diseased plants and stayed on as a faculty member until leaving for UC Santa Barbara in 1962.
- Linda P.B. Katehi, UC Davis’ first female chancellor, who served from 2009 to 2016 and is a researcher in microwave- and millimeter-printed computer circuitry.
- Michal Kurlaender, a professor and department chair in the School of Education whose election to the National Academy of Education earlier this year was the first time a UC Davis faculty member has received that honor.
- Beth Rose Middleton ’01, an associate professor of Native American studies who researches environmental policy and protection of Native American sites.
- Julie Sze, a professor of American studies, is founding director of the Environmental Justice Project for UC Davis’ John Muir Institute for the Environment.
- Celeste Turner Wright, the first female faculty member with a doctoral degree and the first to earn tenure, who came to campus in 1928 as chair of the English department and stayed until her retirement in 1979.
- Ann Veneman ’70, was the first and only woman to serve as U.S. secretary of agriculture (from 2001-2005) and later served as executive director of UNICEF.