Pioneering scientist Professor Mary Good, the first woman to receive the Glenn T Seaborg Medal in 1996, passed away on November 20, 2019, at the age of 88.
From Arkansas Business (by Jan Cottingham)
Mary Good, Pioneering Arkansas Scientist, Dies at 88
Mary Lowe Good, a pioneering scientist, distinguished educator, successful researcher in private business and high-ranking government official who served as undersecretary for technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Bill Clinton, died Wednesday morning at her home in Little Rock. She was 88.
Good, a native of Texas who moved to Arkansas as a child, won many awards during her career, including the National Science Foundation’s highest honor, the Vannevar Bush Award.
The founding dean of the UA Donaghey College of Engineering & Information Technology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Good was named to the inaugural class of Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. In an Arkansas Business profile of her on that occasion, she explained her motivation: “I’ve never been afraid to do new things. In fact, I like to do new things.”
“I don’t mind jumping into something I know not very much about and I believe I’ll be able to learn it,” she said. “I think that’s really a big piece of it.”
Good’s willingness to learn new things led to many firsts. She was the first woman elected to the board of the American Chemical Society and its first female president, in 1987.
Good was also the first woman to receive:
- The IRI Medal (1991) from the Industrial Research Institute for contributions to technological innovation.
- The Charles Lathrop Parsons Award for Public Service (1991) from the American Chemical Society.
- The Glenn T. Seaborg Medal (1996) from the University of California at Los Angeles for contributions to chemistry and biochemistry.
- The American Chemical Society’s highest honor, the Priestley Medal (1997). (Among other winners of the Priestley Medal was Linus Pauling, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954.)
- The AAAS Phillip Hauge Abelson Prize (1998) from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- In 2004, Good received the Vannevar Bush Award, and in 2012 she was one of five inaugural honorees of the U.S. News STEM Leadership Hall of Fame.
Good, born in Grapevine, Texas, on June 20, 1931, moved to Arkansas with her parents, who were schoolteachers, to the town of Kirby (Pike County) and then to Willisville (Nevada County).
She went to Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) to earn a home economics degree, but a freshman chemistry class altered that trajectory.
“I had a fabulous elderly man that taught freshman chemistry and I was intrigued by it,” she said in a 2012 film by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. “I just thought it was the most interesting thing I’d ever had anything to do with. My time as a home ec major was one semester.”
Good earned her bachelor of science in chemistry and physics in 1950, and went on to study radiochemistry at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “One research breakthrough changed the field of medicine and remains a mainstay in treating thyroid disorders,” the Arkansas Business profile noted.
“People had been using iodine — radioactive iodine — to treat thyroid disorders, and it was the wrong chemistry for the thyroid to pick up,” she told the CHF. “So all we had to do was add a little bit of iodide to it. That stabilized the radioactive isotope and it handled it very well.”
By 1955, Good had earned her master’s and her doctorate. She then began a 25-year teaching and research career in the Louisiana State University System, both at LSU in Baton Rouge and at the University of New Orleans. Good ultimately attained the office of Boyd Professor of Chemistry, the first woman to achieve the university’s most distinguished rank.
In 1978, she developed a new program as the Boyd Professor of Materials Science, Division of Engineering Research, at LSU.
Good entered the private sector in the 1980s, taking a job in 1981 at Universal Oil Products in Chicago, a company that evolved into AlliedSignal and then Honeywell.
“UOP [made] a living by licensing technology. You have to have the best technology and you have to have it first,” she told the CHF. “So that’s kind of a fun and challenging thing to do and I enjoyed that very much.”
Good was appointed to the board of the National Science Foundation by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, becoming the first woman to chair the board, and was reappointed by President Ronald Reagan.
President George H.W. Bush named her to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology in 1991.
Good left AlliedSignal in 1993 to become undersecretary for technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce in the Clinton administration.
Good became the Donaghey University Professor at UALR in 1997 and the founding dean of the EIT College.
Good retired from the EIT College in 2011, going on to serve a variety of advisory roles in higher education, business and economic development.
Good met her husband, Bill Good, while both were graduate students in physics. They married in 1952. Bill Good predeceased her.
Good’s sister, Dr. Betty Lowe, was instrumental in the growth of Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, which she served as medical director. Betty Lowe died in 2013.
Good is survived by two sons, Billy John Good of Little Rock and James Patrick Good of Madison, Wisconsin; their wives, Peggy Good and Laura Good; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral details are pending.