Women at Yale 50 150


As part of the year-long 50WomenAtYale150 commemoration, OISS will highlight international alumnae—women of all generations and backgrounds from around the world who have gone on to make fascinating and noble contributions.

OISS welcomes suggestions for future highlights. Please email Uma Shankar with your suggestions.

Portrait of Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse (Germany)

Eva Hesse’s family fled Nazi Germany when she was a toddler and moved to the U.S. a year later. After attending many area schools in New York for Art, including Cooper Union, Hesse transferred to Yale and received her B.A. in 1959. At Yale, she was a student of the famous Josef Albers and was influenced by Abstract Expressionalism. 

While her earlier work was in abstract drawings and paintings, Hesse is well known for her creative uses of materials and her ability to usher in and compete in a male-dominated Postminimal art movement in the 1960’s. Hesse was a pioneer in the use of unconventional materials such as latex, plastic and fiberglass in her sculptures but they also posed a distinct disadvantage in their preservation. Her collections can be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Museum Wiesbaden in Germany, and Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College.  She suffered an untimely death at the age of 34 from a brain tumor. The 2016 documentary Eva Hesse captured both the painful aspects of her life as well as her tremendous impact on the art world.

Indra Nooyi portrait

Indra Krishnamoorthy Nooyi (India)

After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Madras and graduate studies from the Indian Institute of Management (Calcutta) in India, Nooyi traveled to the Yale School of Management (SOM).  A member of only the third class to graduate from SOM, she received a master’s degree in public and private management in 1980.   As a business executive, Nooyi had a long career at various companies before landing at Pepsi where she served as CEO for 12 years.  Nooyi restructured the company with mergers and acquisitions and steered the company towards healthier options and promoted environmental sustainability.

Listed in the top ranks of the most Influential/powerful people in the world,  Nooyi was a commanding female CEO in the business world. An inductee of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,  she has served on many governing boards including the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and the International Rescue Committee.  She is also a Successor Trustee of the Yale Corporation. As the staunchest supporter of the school, Nooyi has endowed the deanship of the School of Management.

Margaret Marshall portrait

Margaret Marshall (South Africa)

After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, Margaret Marshall moved to the U.S. and pursued a Master’s degree in Education at Harvard and a J.D at Yale Law School (1976).  During the apartheid era, as a student activist, she led the National Union of South African Students dedicated to achieving equality for all South Africans. Her legal career in Boston included years of private practice and five years as  General Counsel at Harvard University.

In 1999, Marshall was appointed as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court,  the first woman to serve in that capacity in its 300 year history.  Among the more than 200 opinions, Marshall wrote the decision in Goodridge v Department of Public Health that declared that the Massachusetts constitution does not permit the state to deny citizens the right to same-sex marriage. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Marshall has had a significant and enduring impact on Yale, both through the Law School and as the first woman Senior Fellow of Yale Corporation.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie portrait

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

After completing secondary school and a year and a half of medical school at the University of Nigeria, Adichie came to the United States to study at Drexel University and then Eastern Connecticut State. Continuing the writing career she began in Nigeria, Adichie completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins and in 2008 received a master’s degree in African Studies from Yale.

A self-proclaimed champion of feminism, Adichie has authored many critically acclaimed books such as ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, ‘Americanah’ and other prize winning short stories. Her 2009 TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” has been viewed about 20 million times, a perennial favorite among the media platform’s “ideas worth spreading”. A winner of the prestigious Macarthur Fellowship and an inductee of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Adichie returned to Yale in 2019 where she was the first African to deliver the Class Day address and was awarded a Yale honorary degree.

Grace Evelyn Pickford (United Kingdom)

Born at the turn of the 20th century in England, Grace Evelyn Pickford received her PhD from Yale in 1931 for research based on studies of her South African oligochaete worm collections.  Prior to coming to Yale, she completed her undergraduate studies at Cambridge University receiving the equivalent of a B.A.  (Cambridge did not grant B.A. degrees to women at the time.)

Dr. Pickford is best known for work in comparative endocrinology, particularly the endocrinology of fishes.  Her monograph “The Physiology of the Pituitary Gland of Fishes” is a classic and set the stand for endocrinologists who study lower vertebrates.  At Yale, Pickford was promoted to full professor in the penultimate year of her 40-year  career.  The International Society of Comparative Endocrinology established the Grace E. Pickford Medal in 1980 to be awarded to scholars for excellence in the field.

As part of the year-long 50WomenAtYale150 commemoration, OISS will highlight international alumnae—women of all generations and backgrounds from around the world who have gone on to make fascinating and noble contributions. Women at Yale 50/150.