Alumni Spotlight: Carolyn Beane Allen
BS in Science ’51
Scientist and Professor
The acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) was coined in 2001, but Carolyn Beane Allen had been living the STEM life for decades.
After a very humble childhood in Henniker and Upstate New York, Carolyn returned to New Hampshire and earned her first degree at New England College, the first of several “firsts” Carolyn accomplished.
She put her science degree to work as an engineering assistant at General Electric and continued to work there while earning her PhD in Chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. When she completed that degree in 1961, she became NEC’s first female graduate to earn a PhD. That same year, Carolyn received an honorary Doctor of Science from NEC, becoming the first NEC graduate to receive an honorary degree from the College.
Carolyn’s decision to study science proved to be the first step in an illustrious STEM career. While working on her PhD, she received a grant from the Atomic Energy Commission to embark on a research project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. She completed her dissertation on isotope separation, a chemical process that unlocked new possibilities for military defense. She played roles in establishing University of New Mexico’s Los Alamos campus and Project CHEMLAB, a database of chemistry experiments. As a college professor, she taught undergraduate chemistry at RPI, Stony Brook University, and University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Across the span of her career, Carolyn—known for being independent and self-sufficient—paved her own path at a time when few women pursued careers in science. According to her sister-in-law Doris Beane, Carolyn “faced challenges in a male-dominated world, but men respected her and her knowledge. She was a crusader for women in science. She didn’t act like she was or talk about it.” But she was.
Carolyn Beane Allen is buried in Henniker.
This spotlight was published in the Spring 2021 issue of New England College Magazine.
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