The makeup of the student body of Michigan Technological University in 1967 was quite different than it is today. At this year’s spring commencement Saturday, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will award 12 bachelor’s degrees to women. In 1967 there was only one electrical engineering degree presented to a female. It was the first EE degree ever earned by a woman, and the woman’s name was Pat Anthony.
This weekend, when Michigan Tech holds spring commencement, Pat Anthony will be a part of the festivities, returning to the place where she made history.
Anthony took her dream of becoming a teacher and mentor to Michigan Tech after Tech’s glee club visited her high school in Grandville, Michigan. While at Tech she excelled both in and out of the classroom, serving as vice president of Lambda Beta sorority, working as a DJ on Wadsworth Hall’s radio station (now WMTU) and as a member of the Army ROTC auxiliary, the Silver Stars.
From her present home in North Carolina, Anthony explained why she chose Michigan Tech. “When I was ready to apply to college, Michigan Tech was one of a dozen schools. I got accepted by Michigan Tech before I’d heard from any other schools. Tech included a scholarship application.” Before Thanksgiving of her senior year in high school she had a scholarship to go to Michigan Tech. “It was clear they wanted me,” she said.
Reflecting on her time at Tech, she said it was hard not to think of herself as a pioneer of sorts. “When I’d visit my faculty advisor, K. Ross Johnson, in Hotchkiss Hall, the lack of other women was amplified. As I advanced, I was reminded by professors that no female EE student had made it past their sophomore year. It was as if they were suggesting that I should give up.”
But, giving up is not in Anthony’s nature. After shattering a glass ceiling at Michigan Tech, she was hired by IBM, joining their Development Division in Kingston, New York as a diagnostic engineer, where she continued to feel like a pioneer.
“Everywhere I went, I was met with skepticism by other engineers and technicians,” she said. Despite the challenges, the words of Johnson kept echoing. “He told me time and time again to let my work speak for me. I used that advice every day of my career.”
Anthony said that throughout her career, her Michigan Tech education served her well. “Tech was respected by companies I worked for and with. When I’d get up in front of a banking or automotive executive, or any other industries I worked with as a systems engineer in the computer field, my degree from Michigan Tech ensured that they would listen to me.”
Anthony will be recognized during commencement ceremonies Saturday and said she’s a bit overwhelmed by the attention generated by the 50th anniversary of her graduation.
“I am genuinely pleased the school that wanted me in 1962 is still interested in me. I always have had a special place in my life for Michigan Tech.”
Michigan Tech’s Spring Commencement will be held at 10:30 Saturday in the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in the Student Development Complex. This year’s Spring Commencement speaker is Michigan Tech alumna Paula Wittbrodt ’93, vice president of international business development and chief of staff to the group president international of Estee Lauder.
Wittbrodt earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Tech and went on to earn an MBA from Columbia Business School. A native of Auburn, Michigan, she chose Michigan Tech after attending the Women in Engineering Summer Youth Program. As a Tech student she was active in the Michigan Tech Student Foundation, Senior Class Council, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Delta Phi Epsilon and intramural sports.
"I'm genuinely pleased the school that wanted me in 1962 is still interested in me."
After graduating from Tech, Wittbrodt worked for Michigan-based Amway. She joined Avon Products in 2005 after earning her MBA, then went to Estee Lauder in 2012. She has been involved in charitable activities, including Junior Achievement, disaster relief activities and breast cancer awareness. In recognition of her significant achievements, Wittbrodt was inducted into Michigan Tech’s Presidential Council of Alumnae in 2011.
Graduating senior David Rushlow will deliver the student address. Rushlow, will graduate with a bachelor’s in science in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering. The Boyne City, Michigan, native will move to Fort Worth, Texas, to work for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
An extremely active student, Rushlow was in the Pep Band, a career ambassador, member of the Victorian Guard Civil War re-enactors, Full Throttle Motorcycle Club, Archery Club and the Tech Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.
Nearly 1,000 graduates will participate in Saturday’s ceremonies. Prior to the commencement, the official ROTC commissioning will take place at 7:30 a.m. in the Rozsa Center. A public commissioning will also take place during Commencement.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.