Sponsored by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation
As a World War II baby growing up in rural Oklahoma, E. Ann Nalley faced many obstacles in her quest to pursue a career in chemistry. She started her education in a one-room schoolhouse and was one of few females to break into science programs in college. When she graduated with an M.S. in chemistry from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater in 1969, corporations were hiring few women scientists.
Undeterred, Nalley earned a Ph.D. in radiation chemistry from Texas Woman’s University in Denton in 1975 and carved out a distinguished academic career at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., where she has been a professor of chemistry since 1978 and holds the Clarence E. Page Endowed Chair in Math & Science Education.
Nalley resolved to help smooth the path for those who might follow in her footsteps. “The fact that I had no female role models or female mentors to encourage me has motivated me to make it better for others, especially women,” Nalley says.
“I don’t know anyone else who has invested so much time, effort, emotion, and compassion to guarantee that women are not only represented in the chemical sciences, but are successful as well,” says Zafra Lerman, president of the Malta Conferences Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on Middle East science diplomacy, of which Nalley is vice president. “Ann has made helping others into science careers her life mission.”
Nalley seeks to support women from around the world and “at every level, from the youngest child entering school to the Ph.D. candidate working toward her dissertation,” Lerman says. “There is nothing that Ann will not do to accomplish her goals. If she has to wear costumes and funny hats, dance and sing, and put on a show that communicates the benefits of chemistry to society, Ann is doing it.”
“Nalley’s energy and enthusiasm for chemistry was the inspiration for me to pursue a chemistry career,” says Kay Galindo, a principal scientist at Halliburton in Houston, who first met Nalley when she came to her high school career day to give a talk and carry out a chemical demonstration. Galindo later earned a B.S. at Cameron, where Nalley encouraged her to conduct undergraduate research and then to pursue a Ph.D. at Texas A&M University.
Known for working long hours, Nalley has been a research mentor for more than 75 female undergraduates, and she has organized numerous symposia for women and developed curricula aimed at school-age girls.
In addition, Nalley has earned recognition on the national level, serving as president of the American Chemical Society in 2006 and of the honor society Phi Kappa Phi from 1996 until 1998. She was named an ACS Fellow in 2009.
And even at age 72, Nalley isn’t slowing down. “My career is more exciting than ever, and I continue to find new ways to inspire both young men and women to become scientists,” she says.
Receiving this ACS award is “very special to me” Nalley says, “because it recognizes a lifetime of efforts to encourage women into science careers. I am overwhelmed and honored because there are so many others who do so much.”
Nalley will present her award address before the Division of Professional Relations and the ACS Women Chemists Committee.