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Dorothy Bowe dies at 71; aided MIT women

Dorothy L. Bowe, 71, of Medford, former associate director of Financial Aid, died on February 9 following a struggle with bone cancer.

Ms. Bowe came to the Institute in 1950, starting as secretary to Professor John Norton in what is now the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. In the early 1960s, she became secretary to Dean Emily L. Wick just as MIT made a commitment to increase the number of women students. The two of them championed not only boosting female enrollment but also making MIT a more hospitable place for women in general. As part of that effort, she supported the Association of MIT Alumnae (AMITA) in launching a vigorous recruiting network for new women students.

Ms. Bowe also led the effort of the Women's Independent Living Group (WILG) to establish its residence. Later she was involved with gathering the oral and written history of women at MIT, and fund-raising for the Ellen Swallow Richards Professorship, named for the first woman to graduate from MIT. The Alumni Association selected her as an honorary alumna of MIT in 1984.

Her interest in women extended to the employees of MIT as well. She worked to increase their numbers in administrative staff positions and for the inclusion of everyone in the MIT Directory. She was also a longtime member of the board of directors of the Quarter Century Club.

"She was a friend all of us could count on, and she was a real supporter of women of all ages in the MIT community," said Priscilla Gray, wife of former MIT President Paul Gray and a force behind the Public Service Center and the Women's League.

"In the succession of administrators committed to equal opportunity for women, Dotty Bowe was an inspiring figure for many," said Mary Rowe, a special assistant to the president, ombudsperson and adjunct professor of management. "She cared about support staff women and undergraduates, about staff women and faculty, about women of color, about graduate students and alumnae and former employees."

After taking early retirement, Ms. Bowe and Walter L. Milne were asked to investigate how to reach out to MIT's retired population of about 3,000 to keep them involved with the Institute. They formed the Association of MIT Retirees in 1994. The organization now has an active membership of some 600 and offers a program of seminars and trips open to all retirees.

Ms. Bowe is survived by her husband, Gerald, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 14, 2001.

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