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Visual Arts from Visionary Members

Although there’s often a division painted between science and art, many SWE members have found a symbiosis in which their art has served engineering, and engineering has served their art. Jeanne Brodie’s spatial awareness and degree in sculpture helped her to pivot to engineering during the Second World War, designing molds at Ohio Rubber. “My boss used to say I had more vision than most of the men,” she laughed during her 2019 SWE oral history interview, “because I could see ‘around’ things.” 

Beyond their offices, early members used their art in service of the Society, raising their drafting pencils to sketch eye-catching illustrations for membership brochures, development campaigns, articles, and at least one SWE award. It is perhaps fitting that the Resnik Challenger Medal, awarded for visionary contributions to space exploration, was designed and sculpted by Past President Arminta Harness, F.SWE, whose own vision shifted from aerospace to terra cotta in her retirement.

– Troy Eller English, SWE Archivist

Visual Arts from Visionary Members
Members created eye-catching illustrations for SWE in the Society’s early years, such as this 1952 poster from the Pittsburgh Section announcing an outreach event. Early illustrations often blended engineering concepts with feminine details to soften the profession and signal that young women could at the same time meet engineering standards and contemporary social expectations for women.
Visual Arts from Visionary Members
After sketching the design for the Resnik Challenger Medal, Arminta Harness, F.SWE, used oil-based clay and dental picks to create the basrelief sculpture from which the medal’s molds were made.
Visual Arts from Visionary Members
Jeanne Brodie’s degrees in sculpture and watercolor served her well in 1944 when her first husband was killed in war, and she found herself working at a business in need of a mold designer. An article about Brodie’s life and 70-year career was featured in the Conference 2019 issue of SWE Magazine.
Visual Arts from Visionary Members
In her submission for the 2012 SWE Mosaic of Memories Quilt Project, Heather Gruenewald found that quilting with her mother as a child proved formative to her career. “I was able to better appreciate the application of math skills such as geometry and arithmetic,” Gruenewald wrote. “They weren’t just correct answers to earn an ‘A.’ They actually served a functional purpose to help build something, which is what engineering is all about.”

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