From Lone Mountain to the Stars: The Story of Marcelline Chartz Smith '47

By Dulcey Reiter, Office of Development Communications Posted Wed, 02/15/2017 - 13:00

Reaching for the stars is more than a metaphor for some. Following her 44-year career with NASA, Marcelline (Marcie) Chartz Smith ‘47 was certainly familiar with what it takes to reach the stars. As a San Francisco College for Women graduate (which until its name change was frequently referred to as “Lone Mountain”) who went on to pursue a highly successful career in computer science and aeronautics, Marcie gave an estate gift of $363,784 to USF, reflecting her commitment to education. Her gift to the School of Education Lone Mountain Legacy Sacred Heart Endowed Scholarship Fund exemplifies the impact that her own education at Lone Mountain had on her professional success, as well as her desire to make quality higher education accessible for future generations of students.

“Lone Mountain had a profound effect on my attitude toward a career … I always thought I could achieve any milestone that I established for myself,”  Marcie noted in a 2013 interview with USF.

I had experienced talented women with advanced degrees not only being excellent teachers but advising women in critical situations and working effectively over a wide range of issues. Why could I not do the same?

And so she did. Marcie graduated from college with a degree in mathematics. While there’s been an increased focus on women pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related degrees in the past decade, this was not the norm in 1947. She wryly explained her decision: “I didn’t want to spend the time reading for English and history,” and admitted after a chemistry course, “I didn’t want to clean up from the lab experiments.That left mathematics.”

When asked about the discrimination she faced as a woman in a role where virtually all of her peers were male, Marcie acknowledged there were “interesting discrimination situations.” She reflected that in spite of these issues, she felt fully accepted, ending her career as the division chief at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, which was the highest ranked role a woman had ever held at Ames.

She also won the NASA Exceptional Service Medal twice, first in 1984 and again in 1990, for her leadership in establishing Ames Research Center as the agency's central computer facility and the leading center of large computers.

"Her amazing story as a pioneering woman in technology and as the former highest-ranking woman at NASA Ames Research Center reminds me of the brilliant women mathematicians in the book and movie Hidden Figures,"  says USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.

Marcie’s 2013 interview about her time on Lone Mountain — a time that informed her outlook and subsequent 44-year career with NASA — brings into clear focus the strong foundation that her education at San Francisco College for Women helped build. In reflecting on this, she shared, “I also learned of the importance of being able to do what you ask others to do. If you cannot evaluate the complexity of an assignment, you cannot easily judge the performance.”

If you are interested in learning more about Marcie’s education during the days on Lone Mountain, please visit the permanent exhibit on display in Lone Mountain 147.

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This gift was made in support of Changing the World from Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.