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New graduate-student fellowship will provide crucial support 

Image: Luise-Charlotte Kappe with her students (from left to right) James Beuerle ‘93, MA ‘95, PhD ‘99; Viji Thomas, PhD ‘10; and David Garrison, MA ‘89, PhD ‘95, MS ‘03, at Binghamton in 2018.
Luise-Charlotte Kappe with her students (from left to right) James Beuerle ‘93, MA ‘95, PhD ‘99; Viji Thomas, PhD ‘10; and David Garrison, MA ‘89, PhD ‘95, MS ‘03, at Binghamton in 2018. Image Credit: Provided.

Graduate support, or lack of it, can be the deciding factor for students who are weighing where to further their education and research.

Thanks to Luise-Charlotte Kappe, Binghamton University professor emerita of mathematical sciences, Binghamton’s recruiting toolkit has an additional resource that could make all the difference.

The new Luise Kappe Fellowship in Mathematical Sciences will give recipients (first-year graduate students) essential support, including a reduced teaching load for a semester and faculty mentorship as they delve into their dissertations. Preference will be given to women who have earned their bachelor’s degrees from State University of New York institutions other than Binghamton.

Only three of the 14 doctoral students Kappe worked with during her time at the University, from 1968 until she retired in 2004, were women, she said. Through 2015, she taught one course per year and has continued to conduct mathematical research.

“I would’ve taken more, but there weren’t any more around,” she said about the female PhD students. Just 30% of PhD recipients in mathematics in the U.S. are female, she added.

In the chapter “It’s a wonderful life! — Reflections on the career of a mathematician,” which she plans to include in a book, Kappe wrote that she had three goals in life: “Become a scientist, have a career, and have a family. In this pursuit, I had very few role models.”

Born and raised in Germany, Kappe married fellow mathematician Wolfgang Paul Kappe. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1963. He also retired from Binghamton as a professor of mathematical sciences. He died in 2015.

“Combining academia with raising a family is hard for males, too. But it is harder for women: the tenure clock ticks, the biological clock ticks,” she wrote. “No matter how hard the times are, I always have math to work on.”

“Professor Kappe has been generously supporting the department since her retirement,” said Marcin Mazur, professor and chair of Binghamton’s Department of
Mathematical Sciences.

In addition to the new fellowship, she supports the Kappe Family Endowment, which helps fund the annual Binghamton University Graduate Conference in Algebra and Topology (BUGCAT).

“The Department of Mathematical Sciences is very grateful for these donations,” Mazur said.

Binghamton donor and Professor Emerita Luise-Charlotte Kappe — 

The best thing I ever did: working with PhD students. Fourteen students got their degree under my direction. You can make a difference in someone’s life!