A Legacy of Support

Dorothy Dortch Kapnic

Dorothy Dortch Kapnic

by Jennifer Holland

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as the STEM fields, have a direct impact on daily modern life. Whether it is the natural world, computers and smartphones, buildings and roads or going to the store and bank, STEM is all around. These are just a few of the reasons that mathematical sciences alumna Dorothy Dortch Kapnic of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, believes so strongly supporting the education of those interested in mathematics.

Motivated by her own experiences at the University of Arkansas and her commitment to continue the legacy of support she once received herself, Kapnic is creating an endowed award with the goal of increasing diversity in the STEM fields. Her $25,000 will benefit undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

“The education I received in mathematics helped me approach things more logically and analyze processes more efficiently,” Kapnic said.

Kapnic grew up outside of Little Rock and attended North Little Rock High School, where she had two significant female mentors in geometry and physics. Thanks to their influence, she chose math as her major when she went to college and continued the U of A legacy shared by her father and sister.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Kapnic’s career then took her back to the same high school where she taught alongside her high school mentors.  At their urging, she applied for and received a National Science Foundation fellowship and went on to earn a Master of Arts in math.

Kapnic returned to teaching briefly and then joined AT&T in Kansas City, where she became involved in the computer field as a programmer analyst. She later went on to work for Sunoco in Tulsa and then in Philadelphia, also in computer-related areas.  Subsequently, her career took her to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield where she worked in computer areas before retiring in 2009.

Throughout her academic and professional career, Kapnic found herself in a primarily male-dominated industry.

According to a 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report, the United States’ STEM workforce is crucial to the nation's capacity for innovation and global competitiveness. The report also notes that although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, and women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs.

“I realized during my career that I had a responsibility to my gender as well as my position in the company,” she said. “And I realized that, in the long run, women need to help other women.”

Because of this, Kapnic established an award in Fulbright College to benefit other students who will contribute to a diverse educational environment, and she did so after receiving a call from one of the university’s student Hog Callers. The Dorothy Dortch Kapnic Endowed Award in Mathematical Sciences will be awarded to undergraduate or graduate students who have at least a 3.0 grade point average and can describe how they contribute to such an environment.

 “I feel compelled to help those who come after me, which is why I created this award,” Kapnic said. “You don’t have to have millions to make a difference in an area you care about.”

Jennifer Holland

About the author

Jennifer Holland serves as director of development communications for the University of Arkansas. – Reprinted from The Benefactor