Former SWE Member Judith (Judy) Love Cohen Siegel Black Katz passed away last year on July 25, 2016. To honor their mother’s life and legacy, Neil Siegel, IBM Professor of Engineering Management at the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, and Jack Black, actor, musician, and comedian, joined together to make a generous donation to SWE. Donation proceeds included more than $70,000 received from Black’s appearance on the celebrity edition of The Price is Right.
In remembering his mother, Siegel notes she was a “beloved mother, friend and colleague … who was an accomplished engineer, author, and publisher.” Black adds that she was, “a caring mother whose love was unconditional and whose support was limitless.”
Judy received both a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from USC in 1957 and 1962, respectively. In her undergraduate program at USC, she was one of eight women out of 800 men in the engineering program. It was reported her male colleagues would tell her to get married or have a baby and she would respond by saying she was married, had two babies, and, “now, can we get on with this?”
When she was delivering her fourth child, Judy was working on an engineering problem she took with her from being at the office earlier in the day. Shortly after giving birth, she called her boss with the solution. Judy’s family was very supportive of her engineering career, as a quote by a SWE colleague from SWE’s archives illustrates: “Ms. Siegel says neither she, nor her husband nor her children would want her in any other profession – even that of a housewife.”
At the time of becoming a SWE Member in 1961, she had already received numerous awards and had exceled so far within the profession that she was granted Senior Member status. She was an active member of SWE’s Los Angeles Section, serving as the Section’s President for two terms in 1964 and 1965. In 1974, she served as her Section’s Representative to SWE’s Council of Section Representatives (now the Senate).
In his own tribute to his mother, Siegel notes her contribution to the creation of the “guidance computer for the Minuteman missile and the Abort-Guidance System in the Lunar Excursion Module for the Apollo space program” among many other significant projects.
“My mother usually considered her work on the Apollo program to be the highlight of her career,” Neil writes, adding that, “When disaster struck the Apollo 13 mission, it was the Abort-Guidance System that brought the astronauts home safely.”
Judy’s engineering career concluded with her work on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Judy was always an outspoken advocate for both women in the workforce and equality in the engineering field. While she concluded her engineering career in the early 1990s, her advocacy for women and girls pursuing STEM careers never stopped.
Realizing that girls had few examples of women in engineering, Judy wrote a book entitled “You Can Be a Woman Engineer.” When no one would publish the book, Judy and her third husband, David Katz, created a publishing company and did it themselves. She followed up with several additional books, all encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers and non-traditional roles.
“Judith Love Cohen’s work not only exemplifies the tremendous contribution women made to engineering feats of the twentieth century but also illustrates the impact one woman can achieve when she advocates for women and girls,” says Karen Horting, Executive Director & CEO of SWE. “On behalf of the Society, I am deeply moved and grateful for the donation in her memory. These funds will directly support our mission of advocating for women to achieve their full potential as engineers and leaders.”
At the request of Black and Siegel, the donation in honor of their mother will be recognized in her name and used to support the general operations of the Society.
Siegel, N. In Memory of Judith Love Cohen: Mother, Wife, Friend, Author, Engineer. Retrieved January 19, 2017, from http://viterbi.usc.edu/news/news/2016/obituary-judith-love-cohen-neil-siegel-usc-viterbi-engineering-women.htm
Society of Women Engineers Archives
Women in the Workplace / Judith Love Cohen : Engineering a Change : A Hubble telescope designer aims to rewrite the book on careers for girls with a series of stories about women in math and science. Retrieved January 19, 2017, from http://articles.latimes.com/1999/sep/06/news/cl-7284
Williams, K. (2012). Blazing Their Own Trails: The Engineering Passion of Judith Cohen and Neil Siegel. IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine, 6(1), 16-20. doi:10.1109/mwie.2012.2189337