The Henry Luce Foundation's Clare Boothe Luce Program has awarded Fairfield University a $404,439 grant to create a professorship in engineering for an outstanding woman engineer/scholar. This grant comes at a time when the need for more young people studying and carving out careers in the sciences and engineering -- especially women -- has become more urgent in the United States.

At Fairfield, the Clare Boothe Luce Professorship will be created in the School of Engineering, in the discipline of mechanical engineering -- the largest department within the school. Most likely an individual early in her career with a newly-minted Ph.D., the scholar will work alongside a cadre of accomplished peers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, school officials said.

News of the award comes in the wake of the School of Engineering -- and in particular its Program in Mechanical Engineering -- having enjoyed a strong record of attracting and graduating increasing numbers of women. In 2010, the School awarded 25 Bachelor of Science in Engineering degrees, of which 28 percent were awarded to women, up from 14 percent in 2006. Simultaneously, the School awarded 55 Master of Science in Engineering degrees, of which 20 percent were awarded to women.

"These Fairfield graduation rates are the opposite of national trends which indicate the percentage of women graduates in engineering is declining," said Jack Beal, dean of the School of Engineering.

In the field of mechanical engineering -- the discipline of the Clare Boothe Luce Professor at Fairfield -- women faculty are highly underrepresented in comparison to other engineering or STEM fields.

In Clare Boothe Luce's bequest establishing this program, she sought "to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach" in science, mathematics and engineering. The 21-year-old program has become the single most significant source of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut.

The University has just embarked on the search for the new faculty member and plans to welcome her to campus in the fall of 2011. It is a tenure-track position, and the scholar will enter at the rank of assistant professor. The grant will be distributed over five years, supplemented with funds from Fairfield University. The University is committed to permanently sustaining this professorship after the initial grant funding is completed.

For more information, visit www.fairfield.edu.