1928-August 25, 2021
Gloria Gilmer was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She earned her B.S. in mathematics from Morgan State University. While a student at Morgan State she co-authored two mathematics papers with Professor Luna Mishoe. Both were published in 1956. She received her M.A. in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. After working and raising a family, she earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Marquette University in 1978. The title of her dissertation was "Effects Of Small Discussion Groups On Self-Paced Instruction In a Developmental Algebra Course" [Abstract].
Gilmer was the first Black female on the board of governors of the Mathematical Association of America (1980-82). She has worked as a mathematician in exterior ballistics with the U.S. Army at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. She has taught in the public schools in Milwaukee, WI and Lockport, NY, and at several colleges and universities, including Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta University). While at Clark-Atlanta she succeeded Etta Falconer as director of the Mathematical Association of America project on Blacks and Mathematics. This high school lectureship program was designed to encourage Black students to learn about careers in mathematics. From 1981 to 1984 she was a research associate with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. In 1983 she visited the People's Republic of China with an American delegation of mathematicians to study mathematics education in China. From 1985 to 1996 Gilmer was president of the International Study Group on Ethnomathematics which has the goal of promoting the teaching and learning of mathematics in cultural contexts. In 1985 Julia Robinson, president of the American Mathematical Society, appointed Gilmer as chair of the Joint Mathematical Association of America, American Mathematical Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Opportunities in Mathematics for Underrepresented Minorities. Among the many activities sponsored by this group was the effort that lead to the development of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board's project "Making Mathematics Work for Minorities." Pat Kenschaft  credits Gilmer with the initial inspiration that led to the MAA Committee on the Participation of Women sponsoring skits at the winter and summer mathematics meetings that dramatized the types of "micro-inequities" still experienced by women in mathematics. These highly successful skits were produced from January 1990 to July 1994 (see  for more details.)
Gilmer most recently served as president of Math-Tech, Inc., a Milwaukee corporation that translates educational research findings into effective programs of mathematics education, especially for women and minorities.
In 2021, the American Mathematical Society established the Claytor-Gilmer Fellowship to further excellence in mathematics research and to help generate wider and sustained participation by Black mathematicians. It carries an award of $50,000 and is typically conferred on one individual per year. It honors both Gloria Gilmer as well as William Claytor (1908-1967), the first African American man to publish a research article in a peer-reviewed mathematics journal and the third African American to earn a PhD in mathematics (University of Pennsylvania, 1933).
Photo Credit: Photograph is used with permission of the MAA Committee on Participation of Women and is taken from Winning Women Into Mathematics, published by the Mathematical Association of America, 1991.