What—or who—does Miss Hall’s School have in common with philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, artist and designer Maya Lin, and actress Cicely Tyson?
Grace Murray Hopper.
Affectionately called the Grand Lady of Software, Dr. Hopper (1906-1992) enjoyed a lengthy career that began with teaching mathematics at Vassar College, continued through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s with the development of the first computers, and included several years leading the U.S. Navy’s
programming language section. Dr. Hopper had joined the U.S. Navy’s Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services (WAVES) in 1943 and later returned to active military duty in the 1970s. In 1983, Dr. Hopper received a special Presidential appointment to the rank of Commodore (later changed to Rear Admiral), and retired, for a second time, in 1986.
The Nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. In a White House statement, Dr. Hopper was cited for her role “at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s.”
It was Dr. Hopper’s leadership in that male-dominated work and her potential to inspire MHS students to pursue careers in the sciences that prompted Emeritus Trustee and former Miss Hall’s Board President Susan P. O’Day ’77 to honor Dr. Hopper when naming the innovation lab earlier this year. One of two benefactor donors who made generous, seven-figure gifts to the ongoing campus expansion, Ms. O’Day has been a longtime advocate for providing opportunities for MHS students to explore science and technology and was an early proponent of the campus expansion that resulted in Linn Hall’s construction.