March 08, 2017

Sister Mary Thompson '53 forged path for women in chemistry

Sister Mary Thompson's 39-year career as teacher and mentor set the stage for women in science at St. Kate's. Photo via St. Catherine University Digital Archives

History provides many examples of women who left a great science legacy at St. Catherine University. Mary Thompson, CSJ, '53 was a chemistry faculty member at St. Kate's for 39 years. Her role in fostering generations of women in chemistry was recognized by the American Chemical Society with the National Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.

A 1953 graduate of St. Kate’s, she earned advanced degrees in chemistry at the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Berkeley. During her tenure at St. Catherine, she influenced the education and aspirations of countless women who went on to careers in chemistry, medicine and technology. Under Sister Mary’s leadership, the chemistry department modernized facilities and instrumentation, expanded the number of faculty, developed new and innovative curricula, and acquired American Chemical Society accreditation for the major.

Recognized by her students and colleagues as a superb role model for women in science, Sister Mary challenged students to engage in demanding research projects and to pursue graduate level education. She was the recipient of numerous research fellowships, enabling her to maintain an active scholarly life throughout her career. Her work as teacher and mentor set the stage for St. Catherine’s increasing commitment to preparing women scientists.