National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             JUDITH A.SCHWAN                                          207
                            JUDITH A.SCHWAN
                                  BY LEO J.THOMAS
                JUDITH A.SCHWAN, for thirty-seven years a driving force in the
            development of new photographic products and an early example for her
            colleagues of how much women could contribute to the engineering profession
            and to the management of technology, died on March 19, 1996, at the age of
            seventy. Her entire working career was spent at Eastman Kodak Company, where
            she retired in 1987 as assistant director of the worldwide Kodak Research and
            Development Laboratories.
                Judy was born in Middleport, New York, on April 16, 1925. After
            graduating from high school, she worked for a year as a billing clerk long enough
            to know she wanted a greater challenge. She wanted to attend college—she had
             an early interest in science and said she might have become a high school science
             teacher. However, World War II changed the landscape. Engineering schools
             were looking for female students to fill the places normally occupied by men. In
             1943 she enrolled in the five-year chemical engineering program at the University
             of Cincinnati. Upon graduating, she was admitted to the graduate college at
             Cornell University. By that time, many veterans were returning from the war and
             resuming their chemical engineering education, and there was a paucity of
             openings in the engineering school. So Judy majored in chemistry, receiving her
             master’s degree in physical chemistry in 1950. Even though her advanced
             JUDITH A.SCHWAN                                          208
             degree was in chemistry, she had taken mostly chemical engineering courses. She
             said she favored engineering because she liked to make things work and to see
             how they came out.
                Judy joined the Kodak Research Laboratories in 1950 as a research chemist;
             she began in the Emulsion Research Division, which was the inner sanctum of
             Kodak research at that time. There was still a lot of “art” in adapting
            photographic science to the creation of new products, and she quickly made her
            mark applying engineering thinking to this task. She was awarded more than
            twenty-one patents from her personal research efforts. These research
            contributions included improvement in color reproduction by extending the
            spectral sensitivity of color film; stabilizers and accelerators for color processing;
            increased light-recording sensitivity of silver halide emulsion; and better signal-
            to-noise performance in color films. But her major impact came from her
            leadership in developing new products such as Kodachrome II, Kodachrome 64,
            Kodacolor II, Kodacolor 400, Ektachrome 400, and Eastman color motion picture
            products. For her contributions to the movies, she was awarded the Herbert
            T.Kalmus Memorial Award by the Society of Motion Picture Engineers in 1979.
                She rose steadily in her management responsibilities from senior chemist to
            laboratory head in 1965. In 1968 she was appointed assistant director of the
            Emulsion Research Division and director of the division in 1971. In 1975 she was
            appointed assistant director of the Kodak Research Laboratories. Her efforts to
            open the channels of communication from the inner sanctum of trade secrets to
            the broader Kodak research community were important to the productivity of the
                As a research manager she set an example for hard work, rarely arriving at
            the labs later than 6:15 A.M. Still she had time to become an excellent golfer. She
            was decisive, tough (some said blunt), but always fair and good-humored. As a
            woman in a corporate engineering environment, she earned her promotions in the
            more difficult days before the gender barriers began to come down for women at
            Kodak. She was a role model and mentor, an effective but nonstrident feminist,
            and a career counselor for both men and women.
             JUDITH A.SCHWAN                                          209
                She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1982. Among
            her other honors was the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the College of
            Engineering of the University of Cincinnati, and the Athena Award of the
            Rochester, New York, Chamber of Commerce.
                She served for many years on the board of trustees of St. John Fisher
            College and was a member of the executive committee of that board. She was
            elected to the council of the Industrial Research Institute and served from 1979 to
            1981. She was a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television
            Engineers, the American Chemical Society, and the Society of Photographic
            Scientists and Engineers. Judy’s church was an important part of her life, and she
            served her Catholic parish and diocese in a number of lay positions.
                She is survived by two sisters, Jane Hirschbeck and Rosemary Trump, and is
            fondly remembered by her friends and colleagues.
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