Phyllis Fleming

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  • "Miss Fleming was a wonderful person and an extraordinary..."
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    - Susan Santangelo, Sc.D. (1978)
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Obituary

FLEMING--Phyllis J., Sarah Whiting Francis Professor of Physics, Emerita, at Wellesley College, died after a long illness on June 23, 2009. A physicist, she dedicated her life to the enhancement of opportunities for women in science as a pioneer in teaching, research and service. She believed to know a subject one must teach it. Thirty of her Wellesley students completed doctorates in physics including Persis Drell, the Director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Among the countless others she inspired with her wit and wisdom was Pamela Melroy, the astronaut. As Dean of Wellesley from 1968-1972, she organized the MIT-Wellesley Exchange and the Continuing Education Program which enabled women whose education had been interrupted to complete their degrees. After her return to full time teaching, she wrote a successful textbook and served as Department Chair and Director of the Science Center. Born in Shelbyville, Indiana, she was graduated from Hanover College in 1946 and earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1948 and 1955 respectively. She was the recipient of many awards. Hanover honored her with an Alumnae Award in 1963 and an Honorary D.Sc. in 2003. In 1982 at Wellesley, she was the first scientist to win the Pinanski Prize for Distinguished Teaching. Later she also was the first winner of the Janet Guernsey Award for Exceptional Lifetime Achievement for her service to faculty, students and alumnae. More recently, she was named a 2009 Alumni Fellow of the UW Physics Department. In addition to her 50 year Wellesley career, she also taught at Mt. Holyoke College from 1948-1950. She completed her career by tutoring at Cape Cod Community College for five semesters. She is survived by her sister, Helen Lorenz, her brother-in-law, two nephews and two great-nephews and her life partner, Linda B. Miller, South Wellfleet, Mass. Services and internment were held in Shelbyville on June 29 and 30. Donations in her honor may be sent to: The Phyllis J. Fleming Scholarship, Cape Cod Educational Foundation, 2240 Iyannough Road, West Barnstable, Mass. 02668 or the Phyllis J. Fleming Scholarship Fund at Hanover College, P.O. Box 108, Hanover, IN 47243.

Published in The New York Times on July 5, 2009
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