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Sigma Delta Epsilon (SDE) Fellowship

Sigma Delta Epsilon (SDE) Fellowship

These were the first fellowships awarded by Sigma Delta Epsilon (now referred to as GWIS, Graduate Women in Science), as the result of fund-raising that began right after the organization’s 1921 founding. It was the intention of the founders of Sigma Delta Epsilon that our objective of helping women in science be, when possible, financial assistance. Apparently, the sum of $50 was given, from funds collected from members, several times in the early 1920’s, to women needing money to do research. Then in 1926, the National Convention authorized the transfer of $100 from the General Fund to serve as the nucleus for a Fellowship Fund. Volume 1, Number 1 of the Sigma Delta Epsilon News, dated May 1935, describes the action taken at the most recent convention, at which the Fellowship Fund was placed in the care of the First National Bank of Ithaca. New York, with a trust document in the process of review and approval: “When everything is settled and our funds are in safe keeping it is the hope of your Committee that the various chapters will come forward with generous contributions. We wish our Fellowship Fund to grow as rapidly as possible so that we may be able to use it for the purpose for which It was established:” At that time the Fund consisted of $2,200 in cash and $550 in securities.


Early News describe the progress of the Fund, and contain pleas for contributions. The stated goal was fifty cents per member per chapter, and in 1938 nine chapters had achieved that goal.  The fund then stood at over $3500. A committee began to meet to draw up recommendations for the selection and qualifications of recipients of the fellowships. In 1939 a Twentieth Birthday Fellowship Fund drive was started. This was not a separate fund, but a way of increasing the amount in the Fellowship Fund to a level ($5000 minimum) which would allow a fellowship to be awarded in 1941, the twentieth birthday of SDE. With a great deal of hard work that dream came true, and in 1941 the first $1500 fellowship was awarded to Dr. Frances Dorris-Humm. Seven further fellowships, of $1000–$1500 each, were awarded at roughly two-year intervals by 1959.


At that time it was decided that infrequent, large fellowships were not as desirable as smaller but more certain awards. Therefore, the practice of giving $1000 and $1500 Fellowships was discontinued, and the Fellowship Fund was given over to the new awards, called Grants-in-Aid. These were set at $500, and the policy was to award them preferably to women thirty-five years of age or older.Eventually the policy reverted to the earlier one, and now SDE Fellowships are given in amounts commensurate with the amounts of the other fellowships awarded that same year.


Please click to learn more about the GWIS Fellowship Program and the GWIS Endowments.

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