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As Yale looks to expand its science, technology, engineering and mathematics community, what better way for the University to endorse this cause than by naming one of the new residential colleges after one of its most accomplished graduates in the rapidly growing field of computer science?
Yale alum, Grace Hopper GRD ’34, instantly comes to mind.
First, her credentials are very strongly linked to Yale. In 1928 — 41 years before Yale College opened its doors to women — Hopper graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College, Yale’s sister school. She then went on to earn an MA and Ph.D in Mathematics at the University. Yale awarded Hopper the Wilbur Cross Medal in 1972, an honor presented to outstanding alumni of the graduate school.
Hopper served in the United States Navy for more than 40 years, eventually retiring as an admiral. Hopper first enlisted in the Navy during World War II. Hopper was 34 at the time, and Navy officials told her she should remain a civilian. Still, Hopper maneuvered her way into getting special permission to serve her country.
Back when computer science was just beginning to develop, Hopper made immense contributions to advance the field. Hopper wrote the first compiler, which is a computer program that allows us to change code that humans write into a form that computers can understand. Hopper helped pioneer better and more sophisticated programming language. She was also the third person ever to program the Mark I computer, which many people consider the first computer in the United States.
Hopper was also a dedicated educator and mentor who taught at Vassar for 10 years. She has trained and inspired generations of young computer scientists, both men and women.
As a woman studying mathematics, working in the Navy and doing research in computer science, Hopper was often the only female in the room. Today, STEM fields like computer science still face the same problem they did 80 years ago. Hopper exemplifies why the University ought to strive for diversity in the STEM fields. She used her talents to the fullest, advancing the study of computer science and helping her country. Yale could reaffirm its commitment by honoring this exceptional person.
Hannia Zia is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.