In Memoriam: Elga Ruth Wasserman, 1924-2014

wassermanElga Ruth Wasserman, the former special assistant to the president of Yale University who oversaw the early years of co-education at the university, died on November 11. She was 90 years old.

A native of Berlin, Germany, the Wasserman family fled the Nazis in 1936 and settled in New York. Her brother Andy later returned to Germany and died in a concentration camp.

At the age of 16, Wasserman graduated at the top of her high school class and then enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After graduating summa cum laude from Smith, Wasserman wanted to attend medical school but wary of accumulating a large amount of debt, she accepted a graduate fellowship in organic chemistry at Harvard University. At the time, she was one of two women in the chemistry graduate program at Harvard. She earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1949.

Wasserman’s husband Harry was appointed to the chemistry department faculty at Yale and the couple moved to New Haven. While raising a family, Elga Wasserman taught part-time at Southern Connecticut State University and Quinnipiac University. In 1962, she was named assistant dean at the Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. In 1969, Yale President Kingman Brewster appointed Wasserman chair of the Committee in Co-Education. She served in this role for four years. She later returned to Yale and earned a law degree.

Wasserman was the author of The Door in the Dream: Conversations With Eminent Women in Science (National Academy Press, 2000).

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