UIC's first female engineering graduate will be honored this commencement weekend

Friday, December 14, 2018
UIC's first female engineering grad to be honored this weekend
Nancy Holmes doesn't think her life story is a page turner. And that makes it even more remarkable.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nancy Holmes doesn't think her life story is a page turner. That makes it even more remarkable.

"It's just strange that people get excited, that they think I have done something," she said.

In 1968 the Oak Park resident became the first woman to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"There were 13 of us. Twelve guys and me," she recalled.

She went on to become the first woman to earn a Master's and a PhD in engineering at UIC.

"In classes, I never felt that I didn't belong there," Holmes said.

According to UIC, women now make up nearly 22 percent of the students at the engineering school. That's up from 14 percent in 2008. The university created the Women in Engineering Program two years ago to boost female enrollment.

"We still have a lot of work to do but I think we are getting there. And I think the more aware that they are, the more difference we will see," Elsa Soto, associate director of Women in Engineering.

It all started with Nancy Holmes.

"Thank you for paving the way," said Ariel Maret, a junior at the engineering school and a member of the Society of Women Engineers on campus.

Holmes will be honored December 15 at UIC's commencement.

She comes from a family of engineers and said she has no regrets about her career path.

"I'm glad it worked out the way it did because I would have probably just stopped at the bachelor's and not really had the experiences that I've had," she said.

Holmes is now 77 years old and employed as a consultant for an engineering firm that serves the power industry, a job she has no intention of leaving any time soon.

"Retire? No never," she said.