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Tue, 11.21.1933

Etta Z. Falconer, pioneering Math Educator

Etta Z. Falconer

*The birth of Etta Falconer in 1933 is celebrated on this date. She was an African American mathematician and educator.

From Tupelo, Mississippi Etta Zuber, (her birth name) was the second of two children (an older sister Alice) of Dr. Walter A. Zuber, a physician and Mrs. Zadie L. Montgomery Zuber, a musician who had attended Spelman College. Young Zuber went to public schools in Tupelo, graduating from George Washington High School in 1949. She attended Fisk University, graduating summa sum laude with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry in 1953. A Phi Beta Kappa, she attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison earning an MS degree in Mathematics (1954).

Zuber began her teaching career a year later at Okolona Junior College in Okolona, Mississippi where she remained until 1963. While there she met and married Dolan Falconer. After a few years she entered Emory University in Atlanta. In 1969 she became the 10th African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics (from Emory University) with an Algebra dissertation entitled: "Quasi group Identities Invariant under Isotopy." Dr. Falconer was Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Spelman college (1965-71), Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Norfolk State college (1971-72), and Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Mathematics Spelman College).

Falconer earned a Master's Degree in Computer Science from Atlanta University (1982); attending the University of Illinois-Champange-Urbana during the summers of 1962-1965 and during the 1964-65 academic year at a National Science Foundation (NSF) Teacher Training Institute; and she attended the University of California-Santa Barbara (summer of 1980) - a workshop on "The Integration of Micro-Computers into the the Undergraduate Mathematics Curriculum." In 1995, Falconer was awarded the AWM Louise Hay Award given to celebrate outstanding achievements in mathematics education.

In response to being awarded the Hay award, Falconer said, "I have devoted my entire life to increasing the number of highly qualified African Americans in mathematics and mathematics related careers. High expectations, the building of self-confidence, and the creation of a nurturing environment have been essential components for the success of these students. They have fully justified my beliefs. Perhaps the most rewarding moments have come when younger faculty have undertaken the same goal and have surpassed my efforts reaching out to the broader community to help minorities and women achieve in mathematics." In 1999, the Council of the American Association elected Falconer for the Advancement of Science as a fellow of the AAAS.

In 2001, Falconer won, along with Dr. James H.M.N. Henderson from Tuskegee, the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award. In 2002 the American Association for the Advancement of Science presented Dr. Falconer with its Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement. She died: September 18, 2002.

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