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Contemporary Alumni

“I have always had an idea that if you want to do a thing, there is no particular reason why you shouldn't do it,”

Cornelia Marie Clapp, circa 1900


My daughter just thinks that all moms fly the space shuttle

Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, first female Space Shuttle commander, 1999.

Trail Blazers


Cornelia Maria Clapp

Cornelia Maria Clapp (1849-1934) was a pioneering research zoologist who inspired women to seek careers in the natural sciences. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1871, Clapp followed a conventional path for educated women of her time, teaching. But a college lecturer, recognizing Clapp’s potential as a scientist invited her to professional meetings and field trips. “I had an opening of doors,” Clapp said. Clapp returned to Mount Holyoke to become a biology lecturer. But to engage in complex research, she needed a full faculty appointment, requiring a doctorate. She turned to Syracuse, one of the few universities admitting women to graduate programs in the sciences. With a Ph.D., Clapp returned to Mount Holyoke and emerged as a leading scholar in marine zoology, publishing her work in top journals and developing new teaching facilities, including a laboratory fish tank that allowed students to better observe animal behaviors. After 15 years of faculty debate, she was promoted to professor in 1904.


Sarah Loguen Fraser


Sarah Loguen Fraser, daughter of abolitionist activists, was born January 29, 1850 in Syracuse, NY. The family ran a booming Underground Railroad station in their home that housed more than 1,500 escaping slaves. While traveling home from a visit to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1873, Loguen Fraser observed a tragic wagon incident that left a small boy severely injured. When a large crowd formed but no one offered help, she decided to commit her life to becoming a physician. With the help of family doctor Michael Benedict, Loguen Fraser received her doctorate from SU’s College of Medicine (now Upstate Medical University) in the spring of 1876, becoming the fourth African American woman in the United States to become a physician. In 1882, she relocated to Santo Domingo and passed the certification exam, making her the first woman in the Dominican Republic licensed to practice medicine. After her death on April 9, 1933, flags in Puerto Plata waved at half-mast for nine days.



Edith Marie Flanigen

Edith Marie Flanigen began her career in chemistry in the early 1950s, at a time when few women were working in the field. Flanigen received her master’s degree in inorganic-physical chemistry from SU in the spring of 1952. She was the first female corporate research fellow to become a senior research fellow in 1982 at Union Carbide, where she spent 42 years. Flanigen was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004, and worked with a national team to create the science and math school inside the Hall of Fame, which opened in the winter of 2008. In 2004 Flanigen also won the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for her groundbreaking achievements in zeolite and molecular sieve technology.  In addition, in 1992 Flanigen became the first woman to win the Perkin Medal. She holds 108 patents in the United States, as well as many other awards and honors, including the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal of the American Chemical Society.