In a warm and crowded Phipps Auditorium on Saturday, June 1, 2013, Wells alumni and guests were amazed by the words of Florence Dowdell Fasanelli ’54. It was clear why the Wells College Association for Alumnae and Alumni Award Committee had chosen her as the 2013 recipient for the WCA Award. You will find her inspiring words (with permission) below:
“Good morning to you all.
I want to thank those who invited me to be here: President Ryerson and your staff, Alumnae/Alumni President Minarik and your committee, and Laura Sanders and her Alumnae/Alumni office staff.
I am honored to stand here before you, and honored to remember the lives of three Wells classmates whose encouragement has lasted me to this day:
Jane Wilson (1932-1956), Eleanor Marsh Hillers (1932-2012), and Christine Patton Chapman (1933-2009) are no longer with us.
I stand before you because of what I learned at Wells some 60 years ago. When I first arrived in Aurora, I was a smart but very naïve 17 year old, raised in rural communities and knowing very little about inequalities or civil rights and the role that access to education can play in addressing injustices.
The father of one of my high school classmates, who was the headmaster of a boys’ boarding school, had told me that if I went to Wells and majored in mathematics I would be in demand my whole life. If I could see Sam Bartlett today, I would thank him for his amazingly accurate foresight.
I followed his advice, and learned not only where a Wells education in mathematics would lead me, but also what a huge role that that education would play for me during my career in addressing injustice.
What I want to tell you is that Wells opened up my entire world.
I graduated in 1954, and as it was 1954, I married right after graduation. I moved with my husband, who was a clergyman, to Fort Worth, Texas. At that time marriage was the great escape.
My husband got a job at Texas Christian University (TCU). I can tell you that after a few months of being a clergyman’s wife, I was bored out of my mind. So I signed up for a graduate course at TCU in Projective Geometry. An hour later I had an offer to teach there!
It so happened that a Professor  recently retired from Yale, had just joined the faculty at TCU for a year. He had conducted honors examinations at Wells ten years before, and had high regard for the mathematics department at Wells. The faculty here at that time included Professors Evelyn Carroll Rusk (1898-1964) and Temple Hollcroft (1889-1967) both of whom were masterful, encouraging teachers. Rusk, herself a 1920 Wells alumna, was among the first 139 pioneering women to earn a PhD in mathematics at a time when less than 6% of such degrees in the US went to women. Although he had not met me, the Yale professor reported that with a math degree from Wells, I could certainly teach college students.
Four years later, in 1958, we moved 30 miles east to Dallas when my husband began working at Southern Methodist University (SMU). The following year, the same thing happened: I got a surprise call from the SMU math department asking me to teach. The chair at TCU had secretly passed on my credentials. I taught at SMU for ten years until I moved to Washington, DC.
In 1968 I arrived for an interview at Sidwell Friends School, a highly regarded private school in the District of Columbia. And yes, it happened again. I discovered a Wells classmate, Christine Patton Chapman, already teaching English at Sidwell and so the job was instantly mine. For the third time in my life I got a job before I actually had an interview because I had majored in math at Wells.
I taught at Sidwell for 18 years, and then took a year off to write history of mathematics which is my academic field. After that year I was considering a return to teaching when I was asked to interview to be a visiting scientist at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The man at NSF who interviewed me and who became my boss was Charlie Puglia, who had been Chair of the Biology Department here at Wells until 1985. I swear to you that I am not making this up! As I moved around the country I kept getting jobs because I had majored in math at Wells College.
But I feel that my Wells education helped me to discover more than the world of mathematical inequalities. While teaching at Sidwell Friends I found out about the inequalities of life, and how crucial access to a good education was. In my early years there, African American students were encouraged to enroll and become a growing part of the student body. Yet the school had not hired any Black faculty. Once I noticed this injustice, which to its credit Sidwell corrected shortly thereafter, I began to see other kinds of inequalities.
I realized that as a woman teacher, I was paid half what male teachers made. Sidwell also eventually corrected this injustice, which society as a whole has yet to equalize. The AAUW reports that women now earn 77 cents for each dollar a man earns for the same job. Even in 2013, it is still too common for men in my professional community to receive credit for work performed by women.
Sidwell Friends provided training for students before they joined protest marches. By the 1980s, I was joining the marches myself. And not only myself. One of my daughter’s favorite stories concerns a conversation we had about civil disobedience when she was 8 years old. I was planning to join in a non-violent arrest movement to protest apartheid in front of the South African Embassy. She argued with me not to do it because my husband was away at the time. She didn’t oppose civil unrest; she just wanted to make sure one parent would be at home at all times. Well, I didn’t get arrested, and, yes, today, my daughter is a lawyer! 
I learned from the Quakers that there is some of the truth is in all of us, but not all of the truth in any one of us. With that concept in my mind when I heard Angela Davis, the political activist, speak – shattering notions of class and the desexualization of housework or household chores – my life was changed forever as a new perspective was put in place.
My new perspective about gender, racial, and class equality became the focal point of my work in mathematics education. During my three years at NSF, I made sure that these issues were recognized in the projects my division funded. I asked the directors proposing projects for teacher: How was the staff going to find female teachers? I asked about student projects: How were the directors going to find underrepresented minority students to participate?
I continued to combine standards for rigorous mathematics education with equality at the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). Again, my name had been passed from NSF to the MAA when a new program mandated by its membership had begun to look at the relations between minorities and mathematics. This program was SUMMA, Strengthening Underrepresented Minority Mathematics Achievement. With generous private and federal grants, which included your taxpayers’ money, we funded programs encouraging mathematicians to create out of school programs for women and minorities so they could experience college campus life. And so they could learn that mathematics was not just what you learn in school but can solve all kinds of problems and assist in exploring ideas about science, society, democracy, music and art.
But it didn’t stop there. In 2012, through my most recent work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we brought high-ability pre-college minority students to Washington to be trained to compete in international mathematics Olympiads. One competition was the Mexican Mathematics Olympiad where two of our Hispanic students earned medals – one was silver and one bronze. Here in his own words is the impact that this effort had on one student:
I guess planning on going to Washington to the AAAS program, once I saw that community; it kinda filled a little hole in my life. I guess, not meeting other Hispanics who did math. I guess that was the ultimate realization that not only is there a math community; there is a math community for Hispanics. That filled the hole right there.
The impact of these projects is clear, but I can tell you that there are not enough projects like these to fill the holes in our educational system.
And since I am now 80, I want to speak to you about what we can for the next TWENTY years to fill these holes.
First, we must acknowledge the hard truth of our broken promise. We have BROKEN our promise of a quality education for every child.
Now, let’s be honest, our community is even aware that it is breaking its promise, and yet is seemingly unwilling to do anything about it. 1954 was the year of Brown vs. Board of Education and the year of my graduation from Wells College. It was a year that segregation was to have been abolished in education, but schools have again become segregated. Today, the most destructive force to quality education is the economic divide. In Washington, DC, where I live, 49% of third grade public school children cannot read at a basic level of comprehension. A quick survey shows that these children are all in schools that provide free meals indicating the parents are at or below the poverty level. We must acknowledge that limited income CANNOT mean poor education. Every child, regardless of his or her parent’s income, should have a quality education. Quality education is a Constitutional right. Second, once we have acknowledged that we have created this stratified educational system through our own form of class warfare, we must consider how to fix the system. I suggest we look to the work of iconic civil rights leader and creative mathematics educator Bob Moses. Moses posits that it is our nation’s Constitution, which demands equal protection for all of us; that tells us our current system is unlawful. Working for access to voting in the 1960s in Mississippi, Moses aroused citizens to demand their civil rights. Recognizing that algebra is the gate keeper to a college education and thus for citizens to function fully in our democracy, algebra, too, is a civil right. Elementary school children need to be prepared to study algebra successfully. For this Moses created the Algebra Project.
There are many things all of us can do to change this unjust educational system and with a Wells education, we have the tools to make this change. Some of you in this room may be teachers or may become teachers to provide a quality education. I hope and dream that you do and that when you do, you make it your business to provide quality education for everyone you teach, regardless of social or any other group.
All of us can look around our communities, bear witness to education inequality, and advocate through legislative and other means for real change. We can demand higher salaries for our teachers to be on a par with other professionals. We can push universities to provide free tuition to students who commit to teaching in low-income areas. At the very least, however, we cannot sit back and do nothing.
THIS is just the beginning.”
 His daughter, Mary Bartlett, graduated from Wells in 1946. Sam Bartlett founded the South Kent School.
 See Wells Express, February 1989 for a full professional biography.
 The Reverend John Messinger (1925-1998) was my first husband.
 A subject I had already studied at Wells with Temple Hollcroft in 1953.
 Joshua Irving Tracey (1883- 1963).
 Weinmeister, Johann Phillip, Die Herzlinie für die Schule Bearbeitet, Leipzig, 1884. This article on the cardiod was a gift from Dr. Hollcroft on Valentine’s Day 1954.
 In 1930 there were 9 women who received PhDs!
 The class of 1954 had 100 women in 1950 and 54 graduates.
 The simple truth about the Gender Pay Gap. Washington: AAUW 2013 edition.
 Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP). Baltimore. MD.
 Anonymous interview conducted by project evaluator.
 Liu, Goodwin, “Education, Equality, and National Citizenship,” 116 Yale Law Journal, (330) 2006.
Moses, Robert and Charles E. Cobb, Jr., Math Literacy and Civil Rights, Boston, Beacon, 2001.
Perry, Theresa, and Robert P. Moses, Joan T. Wynne, Ernesto Cortés Jr. Lisa Delpit, eds. Quality Education as a Constitutional Right; Boston, Beacon Press, 2010.