Exploring the Life of an Engineering Pioneer

For a large part of Dr. Nancy Deloye Fitzroy’s life, she found out if she wanted to do something.

“One day Dad came home and dropped a turntable, speakers, a bunch of components, a schematic, and a soldier and said, ‘You want a turntable? Do it.’ And I did it, ”said Fitzroy.

During World War II, Fitzroy told her parents she didn’t want to go to college, but her high school math teacher made a suggestion that would change the path of her life.

“He said, ‘Have you ever thought of becoming an engineer?’ And I said, ‘What? Can girls be engineers?’ And that’s how it happened, “Fitzroy said.

What you need to know

  • Dr. Nancy Deloye Fitzroy was the first female president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • She participated in pioneering work on heat transfer and fluid flow research from nuclear reactor cores
  • Fitzroy was the first female helicopter pilot in the capital region

Fitzroy graduated from the RPI in 1949 and she said no one wanted to hire her. Eventually she got a job as an engineering assistant in the General Electric Research Lab. She specialized in heat transfer and fluid flow research on nuclear reactor cores and space satellites.

Fitzroy took part in the work on the Hermes project in Malta with her late husband Roland.

“We had a German V2 rocket and I calculated the trajectory how it would fly,” said Fitzroy. She quickly became an expert in her field.

In her 37-year career, she wrote more than 100 technical articles. She holds three patents and became a problem solver in the GE lab. Along the way, Fitzroy made some of her earliest childhood dreams come true.

“When I was very young, I really wanted to be like Amelia Earhart. Could i ever do that Well it turned out to be very easy, ”she said.

Fitzroy is a licensed airplane pilot and became the first female helicopter pilot in the capital region around 1962.

“People say, ‘Why were you always the first? ‘It didn’t occur to me that I was the first. It just did what I wanted to do, ”said Fitzroy.

1986 brought more opportunities to break glass ceilings.

Fitzroy became the first female president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

“They’re engineers, remember, there’s no way they’re going to have a president. Surprise, surprise, ”said Fitzroy.

Four years later, she was inducted into the RPI’s Alumni Hall of Fame. Most recently, she was awarded Honorary Membership by ASME to recognize the enduring influence she has had on the mechanical engineering profession.

When it comes to advice to women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), Fitzroy’s message is clear: don’t let anyone tell you no.

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