Mary Lowe Good (1931–2019)

Mary Lowe Good was a renowned chemist, industrial innovator, professor, and government leader. Good was the first woman in Arkansas to earn a PhD in the so-called hard sciences such as chemistry or physics (fellow Arkansan Margaret Pittman was awarded a PhD in bacteriology in 1929). Good was the first woman elected to the board of the American Chemical Society, and she held important U.S. government positions under the administrations of four presidents.

Mary Lowe was born in Grapevine, Texas, on June 20, 1931. Her parents were Winnie Lowe, who was a teacher and librarian, and John Lowe, a school principal; she had three siblings, including Betty Ann Lowe, who became a renowned hospital administrator. In 1942, the family moved to Kirby (Pike County), Arkansas, later moving to Willisville (Nevada County).

Lowe attended Arkansas State Teachers College (today’s University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County). Majoring in chemistry and physics, she received a bachelor’s degree in 1950. She went on to graduate school at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she studied radiochemistry. In 1952, she married lab partner William Jewel Good; they had two sons. Mary Lowe Good received a master’s degree in 1953, followed by a PhD in 1955, both from UA.

From 1954 to 1958, she was director of the radiochemistry laboratory and assistant professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. In 1958, Good and her husband moved to New Orleans to join the faculty of Louisiana State University–New Orleans. From 1974 through 1978, she was Boyd Professor of Chemistry, the first woman to hold the university’s most distinguished rank. She then returned to Baton Rouge to develop a new program in engineering research.

In 1972, Good was the first woman elected to the board of the American Chemical Society; she became board chair in 1978 and served as the society’s president in 1987. In 1981, she was recruited to serve as vice president and director of research for the Engineered Materials Research division at the Signal Research Center (later Allied-Signal). One of the projects she oversaw was determining whether the newly emerging technology of the Global Positioning System (GPS) had an application for the general public.

In 1980, Good was appointed to the National Science Foundation board by President Jimmy Carter, the first woman to chair that board. She was re-appointed by President Ronald Reagan. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush appointed her to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. While holding the advisory positions, she continued to work at Allied-Signal.

In 1993, when she was considering retirement, Good left Allied-Signal to become U.S. Undersecretary for Technology in the Department of Commerce in the presidential administration of Bill Clinton. In that position, she led the Clean Car Initiative in developing a hybrid gas-electric car, and she encouraged the government to fund research and emerging technologies in that field.

In 1997, Good became the Donaghey University Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock); she then became the founding dean of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology at UA Little Rock. When Good retired in 2011, she was named dean emeritus of UA Little Rock’s College of Engineering and Information Technology and special advisor to the chancellor in the field of economic development.

She served on numerous national boards, including being elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she succeeded world-famous scientist Stephen Jay Gould. Good was the founding chair of the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America (ASTRA) and was a nationally recognized leader in the support of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, with an emphasis on women in those fields.

Her awards and recognitions include the Garvan-Olin Medal; Industrial Research and Development Magazine’s Scientist of the Year; American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal; Othmer Gold Medal; Heinz Award; and Vannevar Bush Award, the highest honor from the National Science Foundation. She was also the first woman recipient of the Industrial Research Institute Medal; Glenn Seaborg Medal; Priestley Medal; and Philip Hauge Abelson Prize.

She was an advocate for women in STEM programs and was one of five national dignitaries honored in 2012 at the inaugural U.S. News STEM Leadership Hall of Fame. Good was also one of the first women inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame.

Good died on November 20, 2019, at her home in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

For additional information:
“Dr. Mary Good, Founding Dean.” University of Arkansas at Little Rock. (accessed October 5, 2020).

Senate Committee Session on Commerce. “Nomination of Mary Lowe Good to Be Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology: Hearing Before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Congress.” Washington DC: July 27, 1993.

Yount, Lisa. A to Z of Women in Science and Math. New York: Facts on File, 1999.

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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