Achievement in the Sciences Award – Reunion 2006

Kenneth Hellman and Nancy Bottone met at Drew and were married two years after graduation.  In their lives they made significant contributions to women’s science education.  Their deaths, in 2005, have been a great loss to their families and to the Class of 1956.

Ken hailed from Baltimore, Maryland, and came to The Forest from the Baltimore City College high school, lured by Drew’s reputation in the liberal arts and the opportunity to play baseball.  A chemistry major who was active in student government and sports, he earned Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry at Michigan State University and was a National Institutes of Health Predoctoral Fellow from 1960 to 1961.  When Ken received the Ph.D. in 1961, he accepted a teaching position at Smith College, one of the nation’s best-known women’s colleges.  He and Nancy moved to Northampton, Massachusetts, where Ken taught chemistry at Smith until his retirement in 1999.

Ken served multiple terms as chair of the Chemistry Department and of the college’s biochemistry program, and directed many graduate students as well as undergraduate summer research programs.  His own research activities in the structure of proteins and the dynamics of protein reactions did not prevent him from excelling as a teacher, and he received Smith’s Honored Professor Award in 1999.  In presenting the award, Smith President Ruth J. Simmons told how he “led by example, persuading his students that they could be exceptional scientists at a time when women were discouraged and even blocked from advanced study in the sciences.”  In retirement, he was recruited to serve as special assistant to Smith’s acting president John Connolly, assisting in the transition to a new president.  The Smith Chemistry Department remembers him as “a complete gentleman, a consensus builder, a model of civility,” and he is very much missed.

Nancy, a Spanish major at Drew, grew up in Union City, New Jersey.  A year after her Drew graduation she completed a master’s in teaching at Goucher College, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow.  She taught elementary school in New Jersey, and then in Michigan after she and Ken were married.  Upon arriving in Massachusetts, she served in Smith’s admissions, development, and art departments, and in 1980 earned an Ed.D. at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  The next year Nancy joined U. Mass’s College of Engineering, where she founded the Women in Engineering program and spent most of the next 18 years as the program’s first woman assistant dean and director.  She received the Outstanding Advisor Engineering Award in 1989 and the Advisor of the Year Award in 1990.  Two years later she received the Engineering Alumni Association’s Special Recognition Award, and, in 1994, the Mary E. Tobin Award from the Massachusetts Association of Women in Education.  She is well-remembered for her strengths as an advisor and mentor and her work in recruiting women science students.

Nancy retired from U. Mass in 1999, just as Smith became the first women’s college to initiate an engineering program in the context of the liberal arts.  Nancy continued to follow her interest in women’s science education by becoming special assistant to the director of Smith’s Picker Engineering Program, and then as consulting director of the Women In Technology International Invent Center which served Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and Hampshire Colleges and U. Mass Amherst.  She retired in 2002.

The Hellmans were known as a strong team by family, friends, and colleagues.  They were among Drew classmates who were active in making the Class of 1956 Scholarship a spectacular success.  They shared passions for travel and boating; Nancy, as a long-term cancer survivor, was also active in cancer support groups and as a cancer research advocate.  They raised two children, Gregory and Christopher, and had two grandchildren.  Their marriage of 45 years ended when Nancy died in January 2005, and family and friends were shocked by Ken’s sudden death only nine months later.  They are missed by all.