Encouraging Women in the Sciences

6 January 2016

Ann Hamilton ’70 remembers vividly the turbulent years she was a student at Carleton. The Vietnam War raged, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, and the shootings at Kent State tore everyone apart. “It was a very intense time to be in our country and especially in college,” Hamilton said.

Adding to that intensity was the changing status of women. Hamilton arrived on campus at a time when female students needed permission to stay out of their dorm—Old Gridley Hall—past 7:30 p.m. By the time she was a senior, there were co-ed dorms.

Away from home at such a tumultuous time, Hamilton found herself struggling at first. “I floundered a bit in college,” she admits. Thankfully, the support and guidance she received at Carleton anchored her.  Mentoring she received from Pat Lamb, Carleton’s first director of women’s athletics, traveling to Japan with professor Bardwell Smith, and learning about demography in a seminar course called Science in Society with professors Jerry Mohrig and Ian Barbour kept her going and ultimately set her on a path she never could have predicted for herself.

“I can’t say my course was planned in advance, but it worked out really well,” said Hamilton, who says she began college with a notion of working in marine biology. Instead, she crisscrossed the country working in demography, studying populations and health-related factors, and ended up earning a PhD in public health epidemiology. She currently works in cancer epidemiology research at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Additionally, Hamilton says she was fortunate to have parents who always emphasized education. Her mother and father, an aerospace engineer, wanted their three daughters to excel and attend the best colleges possible. “I know how important it is to have somebody supporting you to realize you can do wonderful things in life,” she said.

By establishing the Hamilton Scholarship for Women in Mathematics, Engineering, and the Sciences, Hamilton is continuing her parents’ tradition of supporting women in education. Since its start in 2013, Hamilton’s scholarship has helped three Carls pursue paths in math, chemistry, and math and statistics.

“I have one son, and I love him dearly—but I never had a daughter. This is my way of encouraging women in college. It’s very fulfilling to me,” she says. “I feel happy every year because I know somebody is benefitting from it.”

Ann Hamilton