“One of the last strongholds of men in the occupational battle of the sexes has fallen.”
So begins a Nov. 16, 1953, Arizona Republic article about University of Arizona engineering student Raclare Cordis becoming the first female member of the UA chapter of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society.
When the Tucson native and engineer’s daughter earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering the following year, she was also acting president of the UA Engineering Council -- another male bastion -- and the only woman in her graduating class.
She went on to work as a computer engineer for RCA Corp. before earning a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and embarking on a life filled with adventure and discovery.
Raclare Cordis Kanal died Feb. 24, 2016, at age 83. Her husband of 55 years, Laveen Kanal, has established the Raclare Cordis Kanal Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund to celebrate her legacy and expand opportunity for future engineering students at the UA.
The scholarship is available to undergraduate students in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and other science, technology, engineering and math-related fields in the College of Engineering.
“I established this fund to inspire engineering students, in particular female students, with Raclare’s example, and to let the UA community learn about her unique life of learning, knowledge sharing and helping others,” said Laveen Kanal, who met his future wife while pursuing his doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and is professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park.
If there is such a thing as a “Renaissance woman,” Raclare Cordis Kanal fit the bill.
While at the University of Arizona, she found time to participate in many other engineering and non-engineering student organizations, including the Pan-American League, and taught herself Arabic -- reflecting a keen interest in foreign languages and cultures and commitment to bridging cultural divides.
She married Laveen Kanal, from India, in 1960 and raised their family in rural Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. There and later in Maryland, she immersed herself in many scientific and cultural fields, from genealogy and botany to Mexican mariachi and photography.
She was widely honored for her volunteer work with the National Park Service and the Family History Center of Washington, D.C., which hosted a celebration of her life in April 2016.
Her love of humanity -- especially her husband, three children and two grandchildren -- was matched by her love of animals, and she rescued countless cats and other animals over the years.
Donations may be made to the University of Arizona Foundation. The Raclare Cordis Kanal Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund is one of many generous scholarships that will be celebrated at the College of Engineering’s annual scholarships reception on March 31, 2017.