Spelman Math Time Line

This is very much a work in progress!

1920s / 1930s / 1940s / 1950s / 1960s / 1970s / 1980s / 1990s / 2000s / 2010s / 2020s

Images courtesy of Spelman College Archives.

Please email to suggest additions or corrections.

Please see the detailed history of the early days of Spelman.

Note: some students majored in computer science as early as the 1970s, and they were taught in part by Spelman math faculty. By the mid 1980s some CS-trained faculty joined the department, and in 1993 CS finally broke off as an indepentant program/dept.

1910s / 1920s / 1930s / 1940s / 1950s / 1960s / 1970s / 1980s / 1990s / 2000s / 2010s / 2020s


In the 1910s, several high school instructors taught math, in addition to other subjects (which often changed from year to year).

For instance, Maud(e) L. Merrihew (listed as PhB in 1911 and AM in 1918, from Burlington, VT) is variously reported as teaching Mathematics or Geometry, as well as some combination of English, German, General History, and Latin.

Faculty for 1911-1912 and 1918-1919 academic years. Of the 7 listed for the first year there, under High School Dept, 4 taught some kind of math in that of a subsequent year.

Those listed as teaching algebra, arithmetic, geometry or math sometime in this decade include:

Anna Suter 1911-1912, Principal (also American literature and ethics)

Helen A. Leonard 1911-1912 (also science, from Binghampton, NY)

Eugenia Shapleigh 1911-1912 (also bookkeeping, bible and drawing, from East Rochester, NY)

E. Pearl Gorham 1918-1924 (also bible)

M. Allene Freeman 1919-1920 (also Latin)

Lousie Dickinson BS, MA 1920-1924 (also Latin)

Lona F. Pray 1923-1924 (also critic)


Spelman as a College opened 16 Sep 1924. Prior to that it had been a seminary and a high school.

The transitional Catalog and Bulletin (whose cover is shown) is educational. On page 16 it indicated that 42 AB degrees had been awarded between 1887 and 1923, as well as 952 diplomas (with 108 women having received more than one).

This is the full list of faculty of the pre-college Spelman, academic year 1923-1924.

Page 7 of the following year's Catalog (shown here) lists the inaugural staff of Spelman College.

The first math professors were Anna Erickson (taught 1924-1926), and Viola Jenson (taught 1926-1929). Then Georgia Caldwell arrived, with her masters, just weeks before she turned 20. She spent the bulk of the next 30 years as the sole math instrutor.

In 1925, Tapley Hall opened. Until the new science center was built beside it 75 years later, it was the home of the math and science departments and labs.

Lillie Mae Sirmans (later Witherspoon) graduated in 1928; she later did her Atlanta Univ masters on "The Relation of Certain Factors to Achieve in Algebra" (1936).

Alma Ferguson (later Crokett) C'29 went to Univ WI (Madison) upon graduation for a masters.


Spelman publications from the 1930s and 1940s list some Morehouse faculty as teaching math; it is not currently known if they did so on Spelman's campus or whether Spelman students took the relevant classes at Morehouse.

Carrie Wilder (later Moore) graduated 1932 or 1933. She later did her Atlanta Univ masters in education (1947). She also did grad studies at Columbia Univ and Tuskegee.

Madelyn Cornelia Gray (later Weatherspool) graduated 1936. She is the earliest known math major to later earn a doctorate.

Georgia Caldwell had left Spelman in 1938 when she married biologist Barnett Smith.

Elizabeth McKee (shown) and Elizabeth Cannon then taught math for a few years.


Joseph A. Pierce taught math 1944-1945, whereupon Georgia Caldwell Smith returned and held the fort solo for a decade plus. She had attended grad school at the Univ of Chicago 1943-1944.

Henrene Ellington (later Smoot, C'49) did two masters, one in algebra at the Courant Inst, the other in analysis at Univ AL (Huntsville). She also did a doctorate (details unknown) at Southeastern Inst Tech.


Joan Ealey (later Jones, then Dellorto, then Sawyer, C'54) did graduate work at the Univ of Cincinnati, and later earned a masters from Atlanta Univ (1969). She got a CS doctorate from GA State Univ in 1988. She was still teaching (at Atlanta Tech College) a few years ago.

Rita Dixon (later Holt, C'56) did her masters at Atlanta Univ (1962), followed by more grad study at Rutgers and Cornell. Her 1972 EdD is from Harvard, and is the earliest known doctorate by a Spelman math major.

Spring 1955, 1956 & 1957.

Circa 1957, Shirley McBay joined Spelman as a chemistry instructor, later switching to math and eventually becoming dept chair and then dean.

Spring 1958: two faculty, two graduating majors!

In 1958 or 1959, Georgia Caldwell Smith returned to grad school, this time at the university of Pittsburgh. Mathematician John Coe (assistant treasurer at Spelman) stepped in as acting dept chair.

Spring 1959.

Gladys Thomas (later Glass, C'58) hired 1959. In her early days, she taught physics as well as math. She ended up staying for 50 years, getting her doctorate from GS State Univ in 1980.


Spring 1960.

At the end of 1960, Georgia Caldwell Smith submitted her PhD on "Some Results of the Anticenter of a Group" at the Univ of Pittsburgh. The degree was awarded January 1961. Tragically, she died a few months later.

Spring 1961 (DOB for GCS is in fact 28 Sep 1909)

Shirley McBay soon assumed the role of dept chair.

Spring 1962.

In 1962, Georgia Caldwell Smith Prize in Mathematics established.

Spring 1963. A dept so small the faculty are shown combined with the also tiny Chemistry instructor!

Etta Zuber Falconer hired 1965. Note name as listed in caption for photo from her first year, and the ahead-of-curve technology she is seen using. She had a profound and lasting influence on Spelman for several decades. She took a leave of absense in 1967 and in 1969 earned her PhD at Emory Univ.

In Mar 1966, Tapley 310 was dedicated as a reading room "in memory of the late Mrs Georgia Caldwell Smith".

Spring 1966.

Spring 1968.


In 1972, the Division of Natural Sciences (including mathematics) was created, with Shirley McBay as chair. Etta Falconer became chair of math.

In 1972, Pazeduth Nagambal (later Shah) hired.

In Apr 1973, Geraldine Darden (Hampton Inst) visited and gave two lectures.

In 1974, Sylvia Bozeman hired. In 1976, she took a leave of absense and in 1979 earned her PhD at Emory Univ. Served as dept chair 1982-1988 & 1989-1993. Initiated CSAM (Center for Scientific Applications of Mathematics) and EDGE programs.

In 1975, Shirley McBay left Spelman.

Spring 1975.

In Oct 1977, Women in Science Career Workshop hosted.


Spring 1982 (combined with Philsophy this time).

In 1983, Fred Bowers and Andrea Lawrence hired. The former served as dept chair 1997-1999. The latter eventually taught mostly computer science classes, and later led the CS department for many years.

In 1984, Sylvia Bozeman tenured.

Spring 1986. By now, a CS program has matured within the dept. At first, some of the associated faculty also teach math classes, and as the years go by the distinction becomes more clear.

In 1986, Teresa Edwards C'76 and Ben Martin hired. The former served as dept chair 1993-1997 & fall 1999. The latter served as acting chair 1988-1989 and later led the CS dept for a while when it finally split off from math in 1993.

In 1987, Wanda Patterson hired, upon finishing her PhD at GA Tech. She taught at Spelman for about a decade.

In 1988, Colm Mulcahy hired. He later served as dept chair, 2003-2006.

In Mar 1989, the first Science Day was held. In time it became the campuswide Research Day.

On Mon, 17 Apr 1989, Paul Erdos visited and gave the Pi Mu Epsilon lecture.

Spring 1989. (Shahn should be Shah, and Ahen should be Zhen.)

Nov 1989: Atlanta workshop for the Mathematical Sciences Education Board on "Making Mathematics Work for Minorities" organized by Sylvia Bozeman and Etta Falconer.


12-13 Jan 1990: Spelman hosted NSF Calculus Retreat Project.

30-31 May 1990: Alternative Strategies for Teaching Calculus workshop.

4-8 Jun 1990: Using the Computer to Teach Calculus workshop.

In 1991, Sylvia Bozeman promoted to full professor.

In 1991, Yewande Olubummo hired. She later served as dept chair, 2006-2010.

In 1992, Jeffrey Ehme hired. He later served as dept chair, 2000-2003 and 2010-2016.

In Mar 1993, Spelman hosted 2nd Undergraduate MATHFest.

In 1994, Fred Bowers tenured.

In 1995, Etta Falconer received the Association for Women in Mathematics Louise Hay Award for outstanding achievements in mathematics education

In Sep 1995, Fern Hunt (NIST) visited and gave a talk.

In Jan 1996, Lee Lorch (York) visited and gave two talks.

Spring 1996. Combined with Physics.

In 1996, Terri Edwards and Colm Mulcahy tenured.

In Mar 1997, the 75th Anniversary MAA Southestern Section Meeting co-hosted by Spelman and GA Tech.

Spring 1997 (no group photo).

In Apr 1997, Paulus Gerdes (Mozambique) visited and gave a talk on African geometry.

Circa 1998, Wanda Patterson left Spelman.

In 1998, Jeffrey Ehme tenured.

In May 1999, Lee Lorch (York) awarded honorary degree. He also gave a talk.

In 1999, Jack Alexander hired. He only stayed three years, briefly serving as interim dept chair.


Spring 2000 (no group photo).

In 2000, Yewande Olubummo tenured.

August 2000, the move from Tapley Hall to the new Science Center took place. Tapley then closed for a year of renovations.

In 2001, Etta Falconer received the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Spring 2001 (no group photo).

In 2001, Monica Stephens C'91 hired. She has been serving as dept chair since 2016.

iiii In Spring 2002, Linear Algebra II (Math 314), a second semester theoretical course, was taught for the first time, spearheaded by Yewande Olubummo.

Spring 2002 (no group photo).

In 2002, Etta Falconer retired (37 years after she started at Spelman). Sadly, she died later that year.

Spring 2003 (no group photo).

In Jan 2004, Tasha Inniss joined the department.

In 2004, Mohammed Tesemma hired.

Jan 2005, new "permission to take a math class off-campus" form introduced.

On 31 Mar 2005, the annual Etta Z. Falconer Mathematics Lecture at Spelman was inaugurated. Carolyn Mahoney spoke on "Secondary Mathematics from an Advanced Perspective".

In Apr 2005, Spelman hosted the first Infinite Possibilities Conference. Speakers included Evelyn Boyd Granville & Fern Hunt.

26 Apr 2005, Senior Dinnner.

In spring 2005, Nagambal Shah received Presidential Excellence in Service Award.

In 2005, Teresa Edwards left Spelman having spent the previous two years on loan to Bennett College.

1-12 Jul 2005, NSF-funded Spelman Environmental Statistics Summer Institute (SESSI) hosted.

In Nov 2005, MSRI Workshop on Modern Mathematics co-hosted by Spelman & Morehouse. Speakers included Panagiota Dasalopoulos, Gunnar Carlsson, Christopher Jones, Troy Story

In Spring 2006, Complex Variables (Math 368) was taught for the first time, spearheaded by Monica Stephens.

In spring 2006, domino portrait of Etta Falconer in Math Lab (based on Bob Bosch design) completed by Math Club students under direction of Monica Stephens.

In spring 2006, Monica Stephens received Presidential Excellence in Teaching Award (junior category), and Nagambal Shah received Vulcan Material Teaching Excellence Award.

(Nagambal Shah with then dept chair Colm Mulcahy, and college organist Joyce Johnson, in Sisters Chapel).

Also in spring 2006, Jeffrey Ehme promoted to full professor.

In May 2006, Evelyn Boyd Granville awarded honorary degree.

In Fall 2006, Introduction to the Mathematics Major (Math 200) is introduced, spearheaded by Monica Stephens.

In 2007, Joycelyn Wilson hired.

In 2007, at Infinite Possibilities Conference, Sylvia Bozeman received Dr. Etta Z. Falconer Award for Mentoring and Commmitment to Diversity.

In Nov 2007, NAM Undergraduate MATHFest hosted. Speakers included Dawn Lott.

In Jul 2008, CAARMS14 co-hosted by Spelman and GA Tech.

In 2009, Tasha Inniss tenured.

In 2009, Gladys Glass retired (50 years after she started at Spelman).

In Nov 2009, GGAMES math ed symposium in honor of Gladys Glass hosted.


In Sep 2010, STATFEST hosted.

In 2011, Mohammed Tesemma tenured.

In 2012, Viveka Borum (later Brown) hired.

May 2013: Department of Mathematics, Spelman College.

In 2013, Colm Mulcahy promoted to full professor.

In 2013, Sylvia Bozeman retired (39 years after she started at Spelman).

In 2013, Kiandra Johnson hired.

In 2014, Nagambal Shah received the True Blue Award, and soon thereafter retired (42 years after she started at Spelman).

May 2014: Dr. Nagambal "Swarna" Shah joins Dr. Sylvia Bozeman & Dr. Gladys Glass (C'58) in retirement.

In 2016, Bhikhari Tharu hired.

In Sep 2017, Edray Goins (Purdue) visited and gave a talk.

In Sep 2018, Spelman hosted NAM MathFest.

In 2019, Fred Bowers retired (36 years after he started at Spelman).

In 2019, both Naiomi Cameron and Anisah Nu'man C2009 hired.


In Mar 2020, all Spelman instruction for the spring semester switched to online due to Covid-19 virus. Despite initial plans and hopes for summer programs and the fall semester, this model continued.

In 2020, Naiomi Cameron promoted to full professor.

Enahoro Iboi hired.

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