Jeanne Allen Ferrin working in the field circa 1949

Jeanne Allen Ferrin working in the field circa 1949

When Jeanne Allen Ferrin (B.A., 1948) came to the University of Texas at Austin to study geology in the 1940s, she wasn’t the only woman. Her sister Rosamond (B.A., 1947) was already a student in the program. In the late ‘40s, 18 women graduated from the university with geology degrees. The war had just ended and universities swelled with record enrollments as returning soldiers took advantage of the G.I. Bill. There were a total of 140 geology graduates in that time. Still, women were increasingly pursuing careers requiring college level education. Classes were held in the original geology building, now named the W.C. Hogg Building.

Although Ferrin enjoyed her geological studies, graduated and went on to work in the oil and gas industry in Texas, she and the other women students faced challenges trying to make it in a male dominated field. They were barred from taking field-based courses with their male counterparts. They were instead required to take alternative courses to fulfill their graduation requirements. And they didn’t always get the credit they deserved.

“The men didn’t want us in their classes getting the A’s,” she said. “If you got a good grade, they claimed it was because you were a girl; but that’s not true, we worked hard.”

When Rosamond Haertlein went to work for Gulf Oil in Shreveport, she was the only woman geologist in the company and one of only four women in the local geological society. She said the men didn’t know quite what to make of her.

“I would come back from the field carrying a hammer and ride the elevator with the men and they’d say, ‘What are you going to do with that hammer?’,” she said.

Albert Haertlein (B.S., 1978), geologist at SG Interests, an independent oil and gas company in Houston and Ferrin’s nephew, wanted to make a gift to the Jackson School that would have a real impact. After brainstorming with the school’s development staff, he decided to establish the Rosamond Allen Haertlein and Jeanne Allen Ferrin Junior Faculty Fund in honor of his mother and aunt.

“They were early women in geology, not the first, but certainly at a challenging time,” said Haertlein. “So I thought it would be nice to make sure their names are associated with an effort to promote women in geology.”

According to the endowment charter: “Funds from the endowment shall be used to support untenured faculty members. When it is demonstrable that female faculty are under-represented in the Department of Geological Sciences and to the extent permissible under the law and the University policies, preference should be shown to female faculty members.”

Endowments such as this offer a way for alumni to shape the culture of the Jackson School. They are a way of imparting values and expanding the vision for what the school can achieve.

Out of 43 active faculty members in the Department of Geological Sciences, just 5 are women (2 more will join in 2009). According to a report by the Association for Women Geoscientists, one of three keys to increasing the number of women receiving doctoral degrees in geosciences is to provide more role models: “Female students look around to see if anybody on the faculty looks like them and has a lifestyle they want.”

“These funds will be very beneficial for young faculty just initiating their research and teaching programs, especially young women,” said Sharon Mosher, professor, William Stamps Farish Chair, and chair of the Department of Geological Sciences. “Seed funding and extra support makes a world of difference when you are starting an academic career.”

Rosamond Allen Haertlein at UT Austin in 1947

Rosamond Allen Haertlein at UT Austin in 1947

Oil and gas and UT Austin are common threads in Haertlein’s family. His grandfather worked for Gulf Oil and his dad worked for Esso International, among others. His mother Rosamond and aunt Jeanne both received geology degrees from UT Austin and went to work for Gulf Oil. His aunt now lives in Austin and works at the Westbank Community Library. Her two daughters studied at the university and her granddaughter started her studies at the university this year. When Haertlein told her about the endowment, she was moved.

“I was surprised,” said Ferrin. “I felt like he ought to do it for himself. I think it’s wonderful. His mother and I both enjoyed it.”

To learn how your gifts can impact the future directions of the Jackson School, please contact Ann Flemings at 512-471-1993 or aflemings@jsg.utexas.edu.

 

by Marc Airhart

For more information about research at the Jackson School, contact J.B. Bird at jbird@jsg.utexas.edu, 512-232-9623.