Jose Bakker, BEng 69, didn’t want to sit in an office and count all day. As a high school student at an all-girls Catholic school who liked math, bookkeeping was the traditional career choice in the 1960s.
“The nuns didn’t think engineering was a good option for me. They thought I should go into teaching or something. Or maybe they thought I was boy crazy,” she says from her home in northwestern Oregon.
Bakker wasn’t deterred. While Sir George Williams University had no physics prerequisite for admission, the then-17-year-old Bakker picked up a physics textbook and taught herself what she needed to know the summer before she began her degree.
That tenacity paid off — four years later she was one of 30 to graduate with a BEng out of a class that initially counted 100 students. She was also the only woman — a fact that no one seemed to acknowledge on graduation day in 1969. “I was kind of disappointed because no one made a fuss about me,” she admits. Though she did sometimes feel like a fish out of water surrounded by male classmates, Bakker says they were like a family. “They all protected me. I was like their little sister,” she says.