Chemistry establishes Jeannette Brown Lectureship

The Department of Chemistry has established the Jeannette Brown Lectureship, honoring the career of Alumna Jeannette Brown. This lectureship will bring experts in all fields of chemistry from around the world, with emphasis on highlighting the work and careers of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the chemical sciences. The lectureship reflects and celebrates the pioneering work of Jeannette Brown as a talented chemist in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years, author, historian, and tireless leader and advocate for the inclusion and advancement of African American women in chemistry-related professional pursuits and careers.

Brown was the first African American to receive a degree from the Department of Chemistry's graduate program, earning her master's degree in 1958. She received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hunter College. She is a former faculty associate in the department of Pre-College Programs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. For 25 years, she worked as a research chemist at Merck. She started her industrial career as a junior chemist at CIBA Pharmaceutical, working there for 11 years. She is a Société de Chimie Industrielle (American Section) Fellow of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (2004), and is a member of the first class of American Chemical Society Fellows (2009). For her distinguished service to professionalism, she received the Henry Hill Award from the American Chemical Society Division of Professional Relations in 2020.

Brown is the author of two books. Her first book, African American Women Chemists, features outstanding chemists from the earliest pioneers to the late 1960s—a time when an explosion of career opportunities opened up to African Americans due to the passage of the Civil Rights Acts. Each mini-biography was a thorough account of the chemist's passion for the field, what inspired her, and what she accomplished in her career. Brown rounded out this study with a narrative of her own life story and achievements, and a looked at what's in store for the future of African American women chemists. Her second book, African American Women Chemists in the Modern Era, focused on contemporary women who have benefited from the Civil Rights Act and are working as chemists or chemical engineers. This book tells the stories, taken by oral history, of 18 women who are leaders in their fields and how they succeeded.

Brown is an advocate for science education, and is passionate about serving as a mentor to and role model for underrepresented students. She has participated in countless scientific outreach programs and career days for students at all educational levels—elementary through college. For her work as a mentor to minority students and science education advocacy, she was elected to the Hunter College Hall of Fame in 1991; was honored by the University of Minnesota with an Outstanding Achievement Award in 2005; and received the American Chemical Society national award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences in 2005. She also was featured in the College of Science & Engineering's spring 2017 edition of Inventing Tomorrow, an edition focused on women scientists including alumnae like Brown who have inspired future generations of women in science, technology, engineering, and math.