Maria Harper-Marinick – First Woman Chancellor of Maricopa Community College

MARIA HARPER-MARINICK        Maria Harper-Marinick was recently appointed chancellor of Maricopa Community College, the First Woman to hold that position. She is also the first Latina higher-education chancellor in Arizona.

        Her background prepared her extensively for the position. She had served as Executive Vice President since 2010, overseeing much of the university’s operations. Her three primary focuses were on planning, student support and improving the stature and recognition of the college. Her focus was local, national, and international and she served in multiple organizations to achieve that agenda.

        A native of the Dominican Republic, Harper-Marinick came to Arizona as a Fulbright Scholar in 1982. Both her doctorate and master’s degrees are from Arizona State University. Even before she became Executive Vice President, Harper-Marinick was chosen the Maricopa Community College’s District Office Woman of Distinction, one of many awards and recognition for her work.

        Since Hispanics constitute almost a third of the population of Arizona and Maricopa County, her selection feels, to this outsider, like a reasonable choice. The appointment, however, was not without controversy. It seems some board members argued that the process was flawed since someone from inside was hired.

        When I worked at the University of California back in the 1970’s, higher education institutions revamped their hiring process to assure a “fair” system. All positions had to be announced publicly and, after a thorough search, the “best-qualified” candidate would be hired, without regard to gender or ethnic background. While this sounded equitable, it had the effect of stifling advancement for women within their own institutions, as there was almost always a man from outside the organization who had already served in the advertised position at another institution, making him the best qualified for the position.

        Given my experience, I am not surprised that this debate persists, but I am excited to see a woman promoted from within. It is time for women to be placed in positions for which they have demonstrated preparation, as has Maria Harper-Marinick.

First Women in Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2016

TIME        Time magazine often highlights First Women in its annual list of 100 Most Influential People and this year was no exception. It is a pleasure to feature them on this blog posting, but also of interest is noting which people were selected by Time to write the profiles for the First Women. Three of these profilers hold firsts as well, two women and one man.

The one exception is the article on Angela Merkel, the first Chancellor of Germany. Honored for her work in accepting refugees, she was praised not by a First Woman but certainly by a powerful one: Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an observant Muslim, was also featured. The First Woman to compete in the Olympic Games wearing her hijab, she will represent the United States States in the fencing competitions.


               The article on her was written by Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, who was the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Christine Lagarde is also featured. As Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, she coordinates 100 nations in determining financial policies and assuring financial security. She was the First Woman to attain that position. She was also the First Woman to serve as Finance Minister in France, the First Woman in any developed country to reach that position. In the United States no woman has ever served as Secretary of the Treasury.

The article on Christine Lagarde was written by Janet Yellen, the First Woman Chair of the Federal Reserve System. Two years ago, when Janet Yellen was featured as one of the top 100, it was Christine Lagarde who wrote the article about Yellen’s achievements.

Another First Woman featured is Lori Robinson. At the time of publication Time could only anticipate the four-star general’s confirmation as the First Woman combatant commander. (She assumed the position on May 13, 2016.) She had previously led U.S. air forces in the Pacific, but now is the top general for military operations in North America with added responsibility for homeland security. It is one of the most senior positions in the U.S. military.

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        The article about her was written by Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot in Iraq. Currently a U.S. Representative from Illinois, she is the first Asian American Woman elected to Congress from Illinois and the First Woman disabled veteran to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hawaiian First Women

Recently I traveled to Hawaii with my sister. The highlight was sailing joyfully on a catamaran in the Pacific on my birthday and hunting for First Women. My favorite was Queen Lili’uokalani but she deserves a blog of her own. While I’m writing that, here are a few others we can admire:

ALICE BALLIn 1915 Alice Ball, an African-African woman from Seattle, Washington, was the First Woman to graduate with a Masters of Science in chemistry from the University of Hawaii. After graduating she became the First Woman to teach chemistry at the University. She researched the effect of chaulmoogra oil on Hansen disease (also called leprosy). For some reason Hawaiians were especially susceptible to the disease and Alice devoted herself to its improvement and cure.

Rosalie Keli’inoi
was the First Woman elected to the Territorial Legislature in Hawaii, in 1924—justROSALIE KELI'INOI four years after women were given the right to vote in the nineteenth amendment. She sponsored legislation granting property rights for women and several of her bills passed. She assured that a woman could sell her own property without her husband’s approval.

Two firsts for women arose unhappily from the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. PEARL HARBOR ATTACKAnna Leah Fox was head nurse at Hickam Field. When the Japanese bombed the planes sitting on the ground at the airfield, Anna was wounded. She was awarded a Purple Heart, the first ever awarded to a woman. After witnessing smoke rising over Pearl Harbor, Cornelia Fort was the second woman to volunteer for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. In 1943 she was killed when another plane hit her. She was the First Woman U.S. military pilot to die in the line of duty.

In 1971 Patsy Takemoto Mink was the First Asian-American Woman to serve in Congress. ShePATSY MINK represented her Hawaiian districts in Congress for 12 terms and also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Patsy was a co-author of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act which demanded equality for women in all educational and activity programs that received Federal aid. It represented a sea-change in women’s athletics.

MAZIE HERONO        Mazie Herono holds many firsts:

–First Woman Senator from Hawaii (elected in 2013)

–First Asian-American Woman elected to the U.S. Senate

–First U.S. Senator born in Japan

–First Buddhist to serve as Senator

SEAL OF HAWAII       The state motto of Hawaii, which appears on its state seal,  is “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina I ka Pono.” This roughly translates as “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” We know that is due in part to some of the righteous women who made and are still making strides forward for themselves and all the women they represent.

First Women on Jeopardy

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 4.45.02 PMLast week, on Jeopardy, there was a category called Female Firsts. I didn’t record the full text of the questions, but I thought it might be fun to quiz the readers of this blog on the women included, but in a different format.


Match the descriptions below (a through e) with the names (1 to 5). Answers appear at the bottom.

a. First Woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby

b. First Woman to receive a Pulitzer in history (for Reveille in Washington, 1942)

c. First Woman to receive a bronze star

d. First Woman to receive the Fields Medal in Mathematics (hint: She was the subject of a post on this blog.)

e. First Woman to be Speaker of the House of Commons in England

  1. Betty Booothroyd
  2. Cordelia Cork
  3. Diane Crump
  4. Margaret Leech
  5. Miryam Mirzakhan


Answers: a-3; b-4; c-2; d-5; e-1

Katharine Drexel, Saint

katherine drexelA descendant of the founders of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Katharine Drexel was born into a philanthropic family. At a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, Katharine asked the Pope to send missionaries to the Native Americans whose plight had come to her attention during travels to the Western United States. The Pope’s answer was to suggest that Katharine become a missionary herself. She followed that call and used her own fortune to establish 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 states.

Katharine Drexel then turned her attention to blacks living under Jim Crow laws. In spite of threats from the Klan and other segregationists, she founded a secondary school for blacks, the first institution of its kind in the United States. Eventually she established schools for blacks in 13 states and her first secondary became Xavier University.

Today a prep school in New Orleans bears her name. I took this photo of the Katharine Drexel Preparatory School marching band during Mardi Gras last year.