Winthrop Celebrates Women's History Month

March 06, 2020


  • We'll be highlighting a total of seven women in honor of Women's History Month. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA -- Founder and first President D.B. Johnson established the Winthrop Training School in 1886 to fulfill the dire need for professionally trained teachers. While the university has evolved over the years - relocating to Rock Hill, South Carolina, from Columbia; integrating and accepting male students; attaining university status; and much more - Winthrop's legacy began with its first class of amazing women.

To celebrate Women's History Month, we've shared stories of female alumnae who are breaking barriers and changing the world. 

*Sadie Livingston Boyer '58 worked for the NASA Langley Research Center for 32 years, retiring as Assistant Chief of the Programs and Resources Division. In a time where few women worked in the STEM field, Boyer began her career with NASA as a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics mathematician in the Flight Research Division, where she became the first woman to be first author of a NASA technical paper. She later worked in the Scientific Computer Division. She earned a number of awards throughout her career, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.

She earned a degree in mathematics from Winthrop. She and her husband, Dale, established the Sadie Livingston Boyer — Dale Boyer Endowed Scholarship Fund to give other young women similar opportunities.
Read her My Winthrop Experience profile here.

*Lucile Godbold '22 graduated from Winthrop College in 1922 with a degree in physical education. she was an outstanding athlete, setting Winthrop records in many events. 

She competed in the 1922 Women's World Games in Paris, considered the forerunner for women's Olympic competition, capturing a gold medal in the two-handed shot put and a bronze in the two-handed javelin throw, among several other medals.

She taught at Columbia College for 58 years. She was also the first woman to be inducted into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame.

*Amber Armstrong '97 is the chief marketing officer and vice president for IBM's AI Applications. In her 15+ years at IBM, Armstrong has overseen performance marketing for three of the Watson cognitive (artificial intelligence) brands and led all aspects of demand generation inclusive of marketing automation, proprietary and third-party events, digital and web marketing and social media and influencer marketing.

She earned a B.S. degree in marketing from Winthrop. Talk about shattering the glass ceiling! 

*Vilissa K. Thompson '08, '12, advocates for women with disabilities, specifically women of color with disabilities. 

Born with a brittle bone condition known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta, the social work major raises awareness through her blog, Ramp Your Voice, and various non-profits.

Read her My Winthrop Experience profile here.

*Nina Cano '10 advocates for immigrant rights and communities through her law firm, Cano Law, LLC. As a first-generation immigrant, Cano and her family experienced the increased hardship and uncertainty that many immigrants often face. 

Cano majored in political science at Winthrop. She began her career representing unaccompanied minor children at the Texas-Mexico border, where she learned how to handle deportation cases in a high-capacity environment. She opened her own law firm in 2015, which operates out of Charleston. She's an active member of Charleston VOTA, Charleston Immigrant Coalition and others. 

*Martha Thomas Fitzgerald '1916 was the first woman elected in a general election to the S.C. House of Representatives. She served 11 terms as a Democrat, representing Richland County. She advocated for the service of women as jury members; however, the bill was not passed until she left office. She also supported higher pay for public school teachers. 

Fitzgerald ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, but did no win. 

Her career also includedroles as the rural school supervisor and director of elementary education for the S.C. Department of Education. 

*Zainab Ghadiyali '09 partnered with fellow software engineer Erin Summers to create wogrammer, a non-profit that highlights the technical accomplishments of women in engineering. Ghadiyali and Summers also conduct workshops across the U.S. to encourage young women to pursue their passion for engineering. Ghadiyali also works as a product manager at Airbnb. Their work earned high accolades: Foreign Policy Magazine named Ghadiyali and Summers among the top 100 Global Thinkers of 2015. 

"We want to break the stereotype of what it means to be a female engineer," explained Ghadiyali. The Mumbai native, who earned her B.S. in chemistry at Winthrop, came to that realization after switching careers. She worked in public health and started to pursue a Ph.D. in health economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then changed course after participating in — and winning — an on-campus hackathon competition hosted by Facebook. Ghadiyali switched to UWM's Industrial Engineering and Computer Science graduate programs, immersed herself in the world of engineering and discovered her true passion.

Read her My Winthrop Experience profile here.

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