Reprinted from the February 1998 issue of the Mathematical Association of America Monthly with permission of the author and the MAA.
The curriculum vitae of Alice Turner Schafer lists two specializations:Abstract algebra (group theory) and women in mathematics. As early as her high school years Alice exhibited a love for mathematics and an interest in teaching as a career. As a mathematics educator she championed the full participation of women in mathematics. She has been a strong role model for many women and has worked to establish support groups for women in mathematics, to eliminate barriers women face in their study of mathematics and participation in the mathematics community, and to provide opportunity and encouragement for women in mathematics. She was one of the central figures in the early days of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), through which she has helped to change the place of women in American mathematics. Yet her service goes far beyond her work on behalf of women.
Alice Turner is a native of Virginia, where she spent her school years, earning a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Richmond. Lacking the financial means to attend graduate school, she taught secondary school mathematics for three years and then entered the University of Chicago, where she earned and M.S. and a Ph.D. Her dissertation in projective differential geometry was supervised by E. P. Lane, and her published research in this area appeared in the Duke Mathematical Journal and in the American Journal of Mathematics.
At the University of Chicago Alice met Richard Schafer, who was seeking a Ph.D. in mathematics. They were married as they completed their degrees. This union has been blessed with two sons and three grandchildren.
The Schafers' marriage was an early example of the "two-body problem" and the "commuter marriage." Alice's first postgraduate position was at the Connecticut College, followed by a year at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. She then held positions at the University of Michigan, Douglass College, Swarthmore College, Drexel Institute of Technology, and the University of Connecticut before returning to Connecticut College, where she advanced to full professor. Moving to Wellesley College (by now Richard was at MIT), she soon became department head and the Helen Day Gould Professor of Mathematics, retiring in 1980.
Indefatigable, Professor Schafer continued teaching, at Simmons College and in the management program in the Radcliffe College Seminars. Upon Richard's retirement from MIT, they moved to Arlington, Virginia, where Alice became professor of mathematics at Marymount University, retiring once again in 1996.
While living in the Boston area, Professor Schafer with then-graduate student Linda Rothschild and Bhama Srinivasan to organize a group of women mathematicians and students who met every few weeks to discuss common problems and goals. The group anticipated both the AWM and a similar organization in Europe.At the Atlantic City mathematics meetings in 1971, Mary Gray led a women's caucus of the Mathematics Action Group in organizing the AWM. Alice Schafer served as the second president, and under her guidance the Association was incorporated, secured financial footing, and established an office at Wellesley College. Professor Schafer prepared AWM to be come a full member of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, and she and Mary Gray attained international recognition for AWM through its sponsorship of programs at the International Congress of Mathematicians at Vancouver. Essential to the high regard in which AWM is now held by men and women are the excellent mathematical invited talks at its sessions, a feature begun by Schafer. Even after her presidency, Alice Schafer has continued for two decades to give dedicated service and guidance to AWM. Her successors in the presidency rely on her wisdom and good counsel. In recognition of Professor Schafer's contributions, AWM now awards an annual prize in her honor for excellence in mathematics by undergraduate women.
Throughout her career, Professor Schafer sought to eliminate barriers to women in mathematics and to promote human rights for all mathematicians. She directed the Wellesley Mathematics Project (continued jointly with Wesleyan University) aimed at reducing fear of mathematics for women. She helped prepare lists of women who were eligible for grants and fellowships, including invited lectureships. She chaired the AMS Committee on Postdoctoral Fellowships and the Committee on Human Rights and served on Committee W and the National Council for the American Association of University Professors. She has chaired the mathematics section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Professor Schafer has served on the CBMS Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences for six years and has worked for many years for the MAA Women and Mathematics Program. Three times in recent years, through the People-to-People program, she led delegations to China-one concerning women research mathematicians, one concerning mathematics education, and one concerning women's issues in mathematics and science.
Professor Schafer is known for her love of people, her boundless energy, and her fierce determination for a just cause. Her lifetime achievements and her pioneering efforts to secure opportunities for all mathematicians make her a most worthy recipient of the Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics.