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Sat, 10.26.1935

Gloria Hewitt, Mathematician born

Gloria Hewitt

*Gloria Hewitt was born on this date in 1935.  She is a Black mathematician. Born Gloria Conyers, she was from Sumter, South Carolina. 

After graduating from Mather Academy in Camden, South Carolina, she entered Fisk University in 1952.  On May 28, 1954, at the age of 18, Conyers married Ronald Hewitt.  Soon thereafter, she went on to have a son.  Her father agreed to care for her child; and with the help of her parents, she returned to school and graduated in 1956 with a degree in secondary mathematics education.

Without her knowledge, department chairman Lee Lorch recommended Hewitt to two graduate schools. As a result, she was offered a fellowship at the University of Washington in her senior year, though she had not applied for it.  Hewitt received her master's from there in 1960, and then her Ph.D. (with a thesis on "Direct and Inverse Limits of Abstract Algebras") in 1962. 

In 1961, Hewitt joined the faculty at the University of Montana. In 1966 she became tenured and promoted to associate professor, then in 1972, to full professor.  In 1995, she was elected chair of the Department of Mathematical Science.  She served in that position until she retired in June 1999, as Professor Emeritus.  While at the University of Montana she participated in multiple other organizations.

She served on the executive council of the mathematical honor society, Pi Mu Epsilon.  She served as the chair of the committee that writes questions for the mathematics section of the GREs. Hewitt was also a faculty consultant for the Advanced Placement examination in calculus. In 1995, she was awarded an ETS Certificate of Appreciation after twelve years of service. Hewitt served on the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America. 

She was known for many mathematics reasons, but her work focused on two math areas: abstract algebra and group theory. She has eight published research papers and twenty-one unpublished lectures. One would expect Hewitt to have to face many racial and gender-oriented obstacles; however, in a personal interview, she stated that she did not feel there had been any racial incidences in her career that had a detrimental effect on her studies. 

She did, write an article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, titled "The Status of Women in Mathematics". Hewitt has said that "Some of my fellow graduate students did all they could to help and encourage me. They included me in most of their activities. I know this situation was not the norm for a lot of Blacks studying mathematics, but I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time".

She was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Science Faculty Fellowship. She was elected to the board of governors of the Mathematical Association of America. Her accomplishments have also earned her recognition by Mathematically Gifted & Black as a Black History Month 2018 Honoree.  She was the fourth Black woman to receive a PhD in Mathematics. Her main research interests were in group theory and abstract algebra. She is the first Black woman to chair a math department in the United States.  

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