Bettye Washington Greene’s legacy lives on through lecture series

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Wayne State Chemistry Alum and first African American female Ph.D. chemist to work in a professional position at the Dow Chemical Company
Bettye Washington Greene, Wayne State chemistry alum and first African American woman chemist at Dow Chemical.  Science History Institute, CC BY-SA 3.0

To honor the legacy of trailblazing research chemist Bettye Washington Greene, Ph.D. ’65, the Wayne State University Department of Chemistry will launch the Bettye Washington Greene Endowed Lecture Series in 2022. A generous $50,000 seed gift from Professor of Chemistry Christine Chow established the endowed lecture series, which will expose students from diverse backgrounds to experts who have taken a variety of career paths in research-based fields.

Helping students envision the wonders of science careers

First-generation college students and students of color aren’t necessarily aware of the routes they can take in science and research-based fields of study. These students benefit immensely from meeting mentors in academia, industry and other job sectors who can help them envision opportunities they might not have considered otherwise. 

Professor Chow is devoted to promoting initiatives that help women and underrepresented students succeed academically at Wayne State and after graduation. When Chow discovered an article about Bettye Washington Greene written by Department of Chemistry alumna Sibrina Collins ’94 — an inorganic chemist and STEM administrator at Lawrence Technological University — Chow was inspired to create a lectureship that focused on the accomplishments of successful women in chemistry. 

And there was no question in Chow’s mind that Greene was the perfect namesake for such a lectureship. Chow established the Bettye Washington Greene Endowed Lecture Series to provide a critical resource that will be available for Wayne State students forever. 

Honoring a brilliant research chemist 

Bettye Washington Greene (1935-1995) broke barriers culturally and scientifically when she earned her Ph.D. from Wayne State in 1965, becoming one of a handful of African American women with doctoral degrees in chemistry. Greene went on to a brilliant career at Dow Chemical Company, where she published studies in peer-reviewed journals that established her expertise in latex materials and polymers. 

Greene was promoted to senior research chemist at Dow in 1970, and three years later she joined the Designed Polymers Research Division. In 1975, Greene was promoted again to senior research specialist. She worked at Dow for 25 years, retiring in 1990. Throughout her career, Greene established many patents and received many accolades. Her research is still cited in leading journals, and her work to improve the properties of latex has been pivotal to many industries.

Support the Bettye Washington Greene Endowed Lecture Series 

To attract the best speakers to the Bettye Washington Greene Endowed Lecture Series, the Department of Chemistry is looking to raise $75,000 to grow the endowed series fund to $125,000. Reaching this goal will provide approximately $5,000 annually, forever, to cover costs and expenses related to the lecture series — and to establish a parallel career panel.

If you would like to join Professor Chow and others in supporting the lecture series, there are several ways you can make your gift.

Give online
Donate online at giving.wayne.edu/donate/washingtongreene.

Give by check
Send a check to Wayne State University, P.O. Box 674602, Detroit, MI 48267-4602, with “Bettye Washington Greene Endowed Lecture Series” in the memo line.

Contact us
If you have questions about options such as estate gifts, stocks or IRAs, please contact Lisa Anga, senior major gift officer, at 313-577-6828 or lisa.anga@wayne.edu.

Your generosity will ensure Greene’s legacy lives on at Wayne State — motivating students to take courageous paths toward scientific discovery. Thank you.

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