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Gloria L. Anderson
*Gloria Long Anderson was born on this date in 1938. She is a Black chemist, administrator, and professor.
Gloria Long was born in Altheimer, Arkansas, where she was the fourth child, and only girl, in a family of six children. She is the daughter of Elsie Lee Foggie Long, a seamstress, and Charles Long, a sharecropper, with a tenth and third-grade education, respectively. They lived in a mixed-race, segregated farming community. Later, her parents worked at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, her mother in the Armament Division, and her father as a janitor. Growing up, she was expected to help with farm work, and they allowed her to start elementary school at four.
She attended segregated public schools, including the Altheimer Training School. She was an excellent student who skipped grades, graduating high school valedictorian at age 16 in 1954. She explained that the teachers "pushed us to succeed, to excel because they had a vested interest in turning out successful, well-educated students. They cared, intimately, about us doing well." The school offered very little science education and very little math. Few jobs were available for Black women in Altheimer, so Anderson started studying at the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College, a state-supported school for African Americans.
She received a small scholarship in her first year, followed by a Rockefeller Foundation College Scholarship between 1956 and 1958 in recognition of her stellar grades. As part of the scholarship, she worked as a teaching assistant, helping in chemistry classes. She graduated with a degree in chemistry and mathematics in 1958 as the valedictorian, summa cum laude, first in a class of 237. Though she was accepted to graduate school at Stanford University, she could not study there for lack of funding. She was rejected for a position at the Ralston Purina Company as a chemist because she was Black.
The Atlanta University chemistry department chair then offered her a National Science Foundation grant to study for a master’s degree in chemistry. Upon her marriage to Leonard Sinclair Anderson, a schoolteacher, in 1960, she almost dropped out of the program due to financial difficulty, despite the fellowship. Anderson earned her master’s degree in organic chemistry at Atlanta in 1961, with a thesis titled: "Studies on 1-(4-Methylphenyl)-1,3-Butadiene". She taught for a year at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. Anderson then moved back to Atlanta to Morehouse College. She worked for Henry McBay as a chemistry instructor and research assistant for two years. Anderson began her doctoral studies at the University of Chicago and received a research and teaching assistantship. Anderson received her physical organic chemistry Ph.D. in 1968. Her thesis was titled: "19F Chemical Shifts for Bicyclic and Aromatic Molecules". In the paper which resulted from her thesis, she coins the term "substituent chemical shift."
In 1968, Anderson chose to conduct her post-doctoral research at a historically Black college in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April of that year. He considered this her contribution to the American civil rights movement. On Dr. McBay's advice, Anderson applied for the chair position at Morris Brown College's chemistry department in Atlanta. She was awarded the position and became an associate professor at the college. As chair of the chemistry department, she made substantial improvements so that the American Chemical Society could approve it. Despite receiving other offers of employment, Anderson chose to remain at Morris Brown because "of the educational philosophy at Morris Brown, in that Morris Brown takes in some of the brightest students there are, but at the same time, Morris Brown allows students who are not in upper echelon to come in here."
On top of her teaching commitments, starting in the summer of 1969, Anderson carried out post-doctoral research at the Georgia Institute of Technology, working with Dr. Charles L. Liotta on "Studies on the mechanism of epoxidation." She worked as a National Science Foundation Research Fellow (1981) and Research Consultant (1982) for the Lockheed Georgia Corporation, and later as SCEE Faculty Research Fellow for the U.S Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at the Edwards Air Force Base (1984). She also consulted for IPECS Holland, a Dutch chemical and pharmaceutical research company (1990).
Anderson continued her research on fluorine-19 and its interactions with other atoms, using it to probe synthesis reactions. Anderson also covered epoxidation mechanisms, solid-fuel rocket propellants, antiviral drug synthesis, fluoridated pharmaceutical compounds, and substituted amantadines. Her work has been applied to antiviral drugs. Throughout her career, she struggled to receive funding and attributes much of this to the racism of the time. She used money from her salary to fund her research. In 1973, she became the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Chemistry and Chair, which she returned to in 1990 after serving as Dean of Academic Affairs from 1984 to 1989.
Anderson divorced in 1977; she has one son, Gerald. She became Morris Brown's interim president twice, from 1992 to 1993 and 1998, and was Dean of Science and Technology from 1995 to 1997. Since 1999 and as of 2009, she has been the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Chemistry. Twice, she served as interim president of Morris Brown. She received patents for her work in 2001 and 2009. As of 2011, Anderson is an assistant to the president of Morris Brown College.
Outside of academia
Throughout her career, Anderson has held many boards and committee leadership positions, including as chair of the Greater Atlanta Public Broadcasting Study Committee (1974-1976), as Vice president of the Public Broadcasting Atlanta Board (1980-1982), and at Morris Brown College, Chair of the Promotion and Tenure Ad Hoc Appeals Committee (2000), Chair of the Academic Planning Task Force (2003), Chair of the Faculty Retention Task Force (2003) and Chair of the Academic Affairs Council (2004).
She has also been on an advisory committee for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To a group of young scientists, Anderson is quoted as saying, "[You] can do anything that you want to do. You can be anything that you want to be. However, you must be determined. You must work hard. You must not let anyone define who you are and what you can do." She adds, "As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said at my college commencement, and I paraphrase, 'Don't go out to be the best Black scientist, Go out to be the best scientist.' "