Tribune Print Share Text

Trailblazing new roads for women

Created date

February 28th, 2009

Shue Following their dreams and refusing to recognize stereotypes, Erickson community members Jean Sammet and Elizabeth Haynes created new opportunities for women in the field of technology, the military, and the sciences. Jean Sammet, Riderwood Prominent past The ease at which we log onto our computers and communicate with each other is, in part, due to the diligent and revolutionary work of computer pioneers like Riderwood s Jean Sammet. With bachelors and master s degrees in mathematics, Sammet began her professional career doing mathematical work at Sperry Gyroscope. However, she quickly realized that fate had a different plan for her. "One day my manager, an electrical engineer, came to me and told me that the engineers were building an experimental digital computer so that the company could try and get into this new field," she says. "He asked me if I d like to be a programmer. My answer literally was, What s a programmer? He replied, I don t know, but I know we need one. I agreed, and it s a decision I have never regretted." She eventually moved on to work for other companies, where she helped create computer languages such as COBOL, an evolutionary computer language used to program digital computers for various business applications; and FORMAC, "the first significant language for doing formal algebraic i.e. non-numeric manipulation on a computer," she says. "These two projects were the most rewarding, challenging, and interesting parts of my career." In addition to the monumental work she performed in the creation of computer languages, Sammet also wrote the 800-page book entitled,Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals. "People still refer to it today," she says. Influential present Shortly after moving to Riderwood in August 2002, Sammet joined the popular computer club. As one of the largest clubs on campus, members provide computer assistance and information to everyone in the community. "The club is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn new things from experts and from each other," says Sammet. "It allows those who have never touched a computer before to learn and become competent in the areas that interest them the most." She currently organizes and runs one program a month on Riderwood s in-house cable TV station. Previous shows have focused on e-mail, educational opportunities on computing at Riderwood, the computer labs, and the Resident Internet Gateway. Sammet is also involved in the Studio Players, a dramatic group that periodically puts on small plays, and she is a member of the Issues Discussion Group. "It turns out that there are far more activities at Riderwood than I originally anticipated, and many of them are of interest to me. Like many other people, I don t have time to participate in all the activities that interest me, but I always enjoy the opportunity to make new friends." Elizabeth "Libby" Haynes, Greenspring Distinguished past "I tell people that moving to Greenspring was the second best decision I ever made. Joining the Air Force was the first. It shaped my life," says Elizabeth "Libby" Haynes who grew up in Alexandria, Va., and joined the Cadet Nurse Corps a division of the U.S. Air Force in 1944. After a distinguished military career that included earning her degree in meteorology from MIT and working as a flight forecaster, Haynes left the Air Force to raise a son and three daughters. A trailblazer through and through, Haynes couldn t stay out of the workforce for long. "Because of my experiences and advanced degree, it was not difficult to find a job when I decided to rejoin the workforce," Haynes says. "It is a wonderful example of how the military helped shape every aspect of my life." She went to work for the National Marine Fisheries Service as an oceanographer, studying the effects of climatic conditions in the oceans on commercial fish species. Experiential present In 2003, Haynes moved to Greenspring, in Springfield, Va., where she is able to combine all of her life experiences and expertise. As a life member of the American Legion, she currently serves as the vice commander of Post 44 in Arlington, Va. She is also a member of several other organizations including the Air Force Women Officers Association, the American Meteorological Society, the Washington Academy of Sciences, and the MIT and GWU Alumni Clubs. In the community, she has served as vice chairman and chairman of the Women in Military Service for America (WIMS) club (see "Women s club honors, celebrates their own"). Haynes is also the secretary for the wood shop group in addition to several other activities. "There s so much to do it is hard to choose," says Haynes, a woman who continues to blaze her own trails through life.