Pioneering mathematician Shirley McBay has died at 86

The resulting report, released in 1990, concluded what many people already knew: that the educational pipeline was broken and that improving black education required a complete overhaul of education from kindergarten to preschool. 12th grade.

“Educational opportunities for most minority youth, and therefore their academic performance, lag behind the chances, choices and performance of non-minority”, wrote Dr McBay and colleagues in the introduction of the report. “The current system of learning education in a model of mass education for mass production is inadequate to the demands that the 21st century will place on this nation. “

That same year, Dr McBay stepped down as dean and took time off to lead a spin-off from MIT’s project, the Quality Education for Minorities Network. What was supposed to be a two-year project ended up consuming the rest of her career as she found her calling as an energetic and energetic advocate for students of color.

She not only helped them enroll in graduate programs; she also greeted them once they arrived. She organized lectures, taught students and young faculty how to apply for grants, and invited them to sit on review boards.

“If she believed in you and saw that you had a strong work ethic, she wouldn’t do anything for you,” Tasha Inniss, mathematician and deputy director of research at Spelman, said in an interview. “She pushed you to new heights.”

Shirley Ann Mathis was born on May 4, 1935 in Bainbridge, Georgia, a small town in the southwest of the state. She was raised by her mother, Annie Bell (Washington) Mathis, Avon cook and saleswoman; his father, James Mathis, was largely absent from his life.

Showing a knack for numbers from a young age, Shirley reveled in math contests, beating students much older than her. She was only 15 when she enrolled at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, and only 19 when she graduated with a chemistry degree in 1954.

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