The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana is proud to announce the establishment of the Dorothy McFadden Hoover “Hidden Figure” Memorial Endowed Scholarship. The $20,000 endowed scholarship was funded by gifts from Ozaree Twillie, Ellen Turner, and donors to the Giving Tuesday 2021 Campaign. The purpose of the scholarship is to provide financial assistance to students pursuing a certificate or degree from the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana with preference given to an African American female with a minimum 2.5 GPA. “We are grateful to have this scholarship established in remembrance of Dorothy and to help students follow in her footsteps,” Ozaree Twillie said.
The scholarship is named in honor of Dorothy McFadden Hoover to commemorate her life and accomplishments as a local African American hero. Hoover was born to William and Elizabeth (Wilburn) McFadden in Hope, Arkansas, on July 1, 1918. Dorothy graduated Yerger High School in 1934 at age fifteen. In 1943, Dorothy earned her first master’s degree, an M.S. in mathematics, from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), the first institution in the country to award graduate degrees to African Americans. In 1954, as a single parent of two small children, she earned her second master’s degree, this one in physics, at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. A portion of her 1954 master’s thesis, “Estimates of Error in Numerical Integration,” was included in the Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science the following year. She then entered the Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Michigan, serving as a teaching fellow and instructor of “school algebra” and trigonometry.
“When my friends Richard Sallee and Janice Russell discovered Dorothy McFadden Hoover’s story a few years ago, I joined them in their efforts to learn more about this courageous, groundbreaking, academically gifted woman,” Ellen Turner said. “I am a lifelong science educator, and my goal was to tell her story as inspiration for students interested in STEM courses. In particular, Richard, Janice, and I hoped to get that story into the hands of young women of color. Dorothy was an amazing woman who overcame obstacles that we cannot imagine in pursuit of an education in mathematics and physics.”
While Dorothy was finishing her master’s program at Atlanta University, as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s prohibition of racial discrimination in the national defense industry, Langley Labs, NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics—later NASA) began hiring African American female mathematicians. Hoover was one of the first of six African American women hired as P-1 mathematicians at Langley. In late 1946, Hoover began working for Frank S. Malvestuto Jr., a brilliant engineer and prolific researcher. Hoover was the primary mathematician for the Stability Analysis Section from 1946 to 1951. By 1951, she had earned the lofty title of Aeronautical Research Scientist. That same year, she was listed as co-author with Malvestuto on two significant research publications addressing “thin sweptback tapered wings” (or jet wings) on aircraft. Being listed as a co-author was a landmark accomplishment. She was the first African American woman to be listed on a Langley engineering report; typically, only white male engineers were listed.
The contributions made by Hoover and Malvestuto had real-world applications in the development of the aeronautical industry in the United States and around the world. This wing design allowed for stable flight at higher and higher speeds. Today, every cargo or commercial jet aircraft utilizes the thin, tapered jet wing, which has become the aeronautical industry standard. It also supports the U.S. Air Force’s long-range B-52 bomber, large C5 cargo plane, and AWACS, a converted Boeing 707. “We are ecstatic that Dorothy is starting to get the recognition she deserves for her professional and academic contributions,” Richard Sallee said. “Her original work in the early 1950s as a co-inventor of the thin, sweptback and tapered (jet) wing forever changed commercial and cargo aviation. This wing technology allowed the aviation industry to become one of the most dynamic industries of the latter half of the 20th century. It is still the wing the aviation industry uses today.”
“It is incredible to realize that we grew up in Hope and never learned about this remarkable woman, but we are determined to change that for future generations,” Turner said. “I am delighted that UAHT has partnered with us to endow a scholarship in her name. We hope that her story will continue to inspire, and that the scholarships given in her name will give UAHT students the encouragement that they need to continue their studies. We hope this is just the beginning.”