Women’s History: Sisters of Success

Carol Menken Schaudt

Corvallis has been home to innumerable incredible women, not the least of which got their start at OSU. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled a litany of some of the most accomplished women ever to graduate from OSU; most of them going on to achieve the highest levels of excellence in their respective fields. 

Know of any big names we’ve missed? Shoot us an email, we’d love to hear!

Alice E. Biddle (1870) – Biddle was the very first female student to attend OSU, sharing the college’s inaugural class with two other people, both of whom were men. Biddle earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the age of 16. Biddle’s degree was one of the first three to be given in the Western U.S. by a state-assisted university.

Carrie Beatrice Halsell Ward (1926) – By attaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce in 1926, Halsell became the first black female student to earn an undergraduate degree from OSU. Following her studies, Halsell rose to prominence as an educator on the East Coast, teaching business courses at Virginia State University and South Carolina State University. OSU’s Halsell Hall is named in her honor.     

Mercedes Bates (1936) – Bates earned national fame as “Betty Crocker,” the majordomo of Betty Crocker Kitchens for General Mills beginning in 1964. In 1966, Bates became the inaugural female corporate officer for the business. During this time, Bates began to foster the fictional character that has since evolved from clever marketing mascot to iconic American mainstay. Bates helped to finance the Mercedes A. Bates Family Studies Center built on the OSU campus in 1992.   

Kathleen Aston Casey-Johnson (1938) – Casey-Johnson became the fourth Editor-in-Chief of Glamour Magazine, managing from 1954-1967. Her tenure as editor-in-chief still ranks as the third longest in the history of the magazine, behind Ruth Whitney (1967-1998) and Cynthia Leive (2001-2017).  

Soo-jae Moon (1960) – Following her time as a preeminent home economist in the 1960s, Moon achieved a decorated career as home economics professor at Yonsei University in Seoul during the 1990s. In 1994, Moon received an Oregon State University Alumni Association Fellow Award. 

Jean Saubert (1966) – Prior to graduating, Saubert earned a spot on the U.S. Ski Team in 1962. She won two Olympic medals at the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, including a bronze in the slalom and silver in the giant slalom. Saubert was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1983. 

Mary Carlin Yates (1968) – Currently a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. State Department, Yates served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi from 1999-2002, and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana from 2002-2005. For her service, Yates has been feted with two State Department Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor Awards.  

Jennifer L. Dorn (1973) – In addition to serving as U.S. Executive Director of the World Bank, Dorn has held major leadership positions in the U.S. government. These include heading the Federal Transit Administration, acting as President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Academy of Public Administration, and working as Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor. Dorn is currently CEO for the American Academy of Physician Assistants. 

Susan Lisa Jackson (1973) – Lisa Jackson has gained national acclaim as a New York Times bestselling author of over 85 romance, mystery, and crime thriller novels. With over 30 bestsellers under her belt, Lisa Jackson has an excess of 20 million copies of her books printed in 20 different languages.  

Joni Huntley (1975) – Setting four American high jump records in 1974-75, Huntley rose to prominence on the 1976 and 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic teams. She placed fifth in 1976 and won a bronze medal in 1984. Huntley also won a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico and a bronze medal at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas. 

Dr. Mary Anne Budke (1976) – A prodigious golfer who won eight Oregon Women’s Amateur golf championships, Budke went on to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in 1972. As an OSU junior in 1974, she won the National Collegiate Championship. Following graduation, Budke gave up golf and became a medical doctor in 1979. Budke returned to golf in 1987, making the semifinals of the Oregon Women’s Golf Championship. 

Katherine Jefferts Schori (1977, 1983) – Currently serving in the Episcopal Diocese San Diego, Jefferts Schori was the first female to become Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Prior to her work in the church, Jefferts Schori earned a Master of Science degree in 1977 and a PhD in 1983, both in Oceanography. 

Paula Hammond (1979) – Hammond was the very first female to become Secretary of Transportation for the state of Washington. She has held the title of Senior Vice President, National Transportation Market at the engineering firm WSP USA. Hammond currently sits on the Women in Transportation International board of directors and The American Road & Transportation Builders Association board of directors.  

Stacy Allison (1980) – In 1988, Allison became the first American woman to ascend to the summit of Mount Everest. Allison currently holds post as chair of “Reach the Summit,” the state of Oregon’s largest fundraising organization for the American Lung Association.  

Susan Castillo (1981) – Castillo became the first Hispanic woman to be seated on the Oregon State Assembly in 1996. Following a term and a half as Oregon State Senator from 1997-2003, Castillo was elected to the position of Oregon’s superintendent of Public Instruction. She also served as Vice-Chair of the Oregon Education Committee. 

Carol Menken-Schaudt (1984) – Inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Pac 12 Hall of Honor in 2017, Menken-Schaudt was a professional basketball player for eight seasons, including six in Japan. She won a gold medal as part of the U.S. Women’s Team at the 1984 Summer Olympics. 

Julie A. Bentz (1986) – Bentz was the first female in the Oregon Army National Guard to achieve the rank of Major General. She served as a member of President Barack Obama’s National Security Staff. Bentz currently holds the role of Deputy Director to the Director of Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization in D.C. 

Joy Selig Petersen (1992) – Inducted into the OSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and Oregon Sports Hall of fame in 2010, Selig Petersen was a three-time All-American gymnast during her time as a student. She is the first person in NCAA history to win back-to-back national titles in balance beam and floor exercises. 

Debra Walt Johnson (1995) – Walt Johnson was chosen as one of 18 American female Rhodes Scholars in 1994. She attended Oxford University to continue her studies as the first-ever Rhodes Scholar from OSU’s College of Engineering. She earned a Master of Philosophy in Management Studies in 1997. 

Jake Dee