Nancy Streuter '68

nancyIn the Fall of 1961, the first class of undergraduate women were admitted to Santa Clara University. Their arrival on campus shattered the 110-year tradition of Santa Clara being an all-male school.

The first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering was Nancy Streuter (now Nancy Streuter Austin). She received her bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1968. After graduation, she went on to work as a civil engineer with Bechtel Corporation and Delano & Keith, as well as being active in community service.

While Streuter was a trailblazer for women in engineering, she says she has always been grateful for the support of classmates and professors during her time at Santa Clara.


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Professor Reynolds and students
Prof. Wallace R. Reynolds and
engineering students in 1947.
Photo from Archives of SCU.

As engineering innovations developed throughout the 1950s, the School of Engineering continued to educate engineers of excellence. The quickly changing international landscape, however, prompted the need for more emphasis on critical thinking and community engagement. With its foundation of Jesuit education principles, Santa Clara was well placed to meet this need.

Robert Parden
Dean Robert Parden.

Exemplary of the changing direction at home was the technology boom taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Santa Clara's own backyard, the agriculturally focused Valley of Heart's Delight, was transforming into the buzzing technological hub known as Silicon Valley. Responding to this change, Robert Parden, who became dean in 1955, launched a graduate program in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering in 1959; thus the College of Engineering became the School of Engineering. With classes held in the early morning hours, the "Early Bird" program catered to working professionals eager to gain new skills for the changing world.

Undergraduate women
Undergraduate women in
1961. Photo from the Archives
of SCU.

Santa Clara made a huge leap in gaining perspective when it made the decision in 1961 to admit women into its undergraduate program, making it the first Catholic coeducational institution of higher learning in California. In 1968, Nancy Streuter became the first woman to graduate with an undergraduate engineering degree.

Today, the School of Engineering broadens students' perspectives by encouraging global understanding and engagement through a wide variety of learning opportunities in the classroom and around the world.