First MU female to earn Ph.D. shattered glass ceiling
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 03:10
Mildred Seltzer (1921-1994) was a teacher, wife, mother, advocate, feminist and the driving force behind the creation of the Miami University gerontology program. Seltzer was also the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from Miami University in 1969.
Seltzer was born and raised in Cleveland before attending Miami where she received her Bachelor’s of Arts in 1942 with a degree in sociology.
Seltzer earned her master’s degree in Chicago in 1944 for Social Services Administration and worked there for the next five years as a children’s services caseworker before returning to her alma mater and, in the 1960s, made her stay in Oxford permanent.
Upon her death in 1994 Seltzer was described as a “doer” in her memorial.
In 1966, Seltzer worked with Bob Atchley, another major contributor to the field of gerontology, to develop the first course in social gerontology. Around this time, she also started work on her Ph.D., with her focus remaining on gerontology.
In addition to becoming the first woman to earn her Ph.D. from Miami, Seltzer was appointed as a full time assistant professor of sociology in 1969.
Seltzer helped create the gerontology program’s curriculum and research program, networked with agencies on aging throughout the state of Ohio and was a major factor in the amount of grants the program received in the interest of this program.
When Seltzer wanted something accomplished, she accomplished it. She was a force to be reckoned with.
Seltzer’s memorial also said:
“Her energy and capacity to manage several tasks at a time earned her the fond title of ‘white tornado’ among close friends in the administration building.”
When Seltzer became associate provost in 1974, among other roles, she was in charge of the development of the women’s studies program and even had a hand in the creation of the Women’s Center.
She actively and persistently spoke up against sexism and anti-Semitism on campus and in the classroom; she served on more committees and held more leadership positions and jobs at one time than anyone ever could be expected to, and Seltzer always stayed true to her passions: gerontology, religion and women’s rights.
Seltzer earned Miami’s highest honor, the Benjamin Harrison Award in 1983 and the Outstanding Miami Woman Award in both 1972 and 1980.
She retired from teaching in 1991 and from her position as Director of Education in 1992, but remained as in her role as Senior Fellow of the Scripps Gerontology Center until her death in November of 1994.