New scholarship honors first woman Buckeye engineer

Posted: March 23, 2021
Bertha Lamme

In 1893, Bertha Lamme became the first woman to earn an engineering degree from The Ohio State University, making her just the second female engineering graduate in the U.S.

After her time at Ohio State, the Buckeye engineer worked at Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company as a motor designer. During her 12 years at the company, Lamme’s intricate calculations were used on machinery design and performance.

In honor of her pioneering spirit and legacy, Bruce and Judy Lavash recently established the Bertha Lamme Endowed Scholarship Fund in Engineering with a $100,000 gift. Preference will be given to students who are members of Women in Engineering or organizations whose missions support the advancement of women.

The couple hopes the scholarship encourages the next generation of women in engineering to embrace the “spirit of Bertha Lamme for achieving firsts.”

“We feel it's an important thing to inspire women, to inspire men, to inspire anybody to be the first at something. I don't care what that is,” said Bruce Lavash ’77, ’78, mechanical engineering. “Because if that happens, that person wins, the university wins and wherever they end up wins.”

Already the benefactors of several Ohio State scholarships, the Lavash family felt compelled to increase their support of students after hearing Lamme’s story at a college event in 2019 and learning there wasn’t one named in her honor. As a recipient of the Benjamin G. Lamme Scholarship—honoring Bertha’s brother, a fellow Buckeye engineer and acclaimed inventor—Bruce was determined to give Bertha equal recognition.

Fellow trailblazer and the first woman dean of Ohio State’s College of Engineering, Ayanna Howard, said the scholarship is an inspiration. “This generous gift from Bruce and Judy Lavash not only shines a light on Bertha Lamme’s remarkable achievements, it also helps encourage women Buckeye engineers to achieve their own firsts and break personal, societal and technological barriers.”

Bruce and Judy Lavash stand side-by-side on the Knowlton Hall plaza
Judy and Bruce Lavash at the College of Engineering's 2019 Homecoming Tailgate.

The donors also hope to encourage first-generation college students and those who are the first in their families to study engineering. As the son of a first-generation college student, Lavash experienced the impact education can have across generations.

“It transforms the trajectory of lives. My father grew up very poor on a chicken farm west of Boston, Massachusetts, and got through college on the GI bill,” he said. “He was a first-generation college student, so the whole family has been changed by that. His three kids, their spouses, his eight grandkids all graduated from college.”

Lavash also believes that men should contribute to the advancement of women engineers.

“We shouldn't expect women to be the only ones who support the development of female engineers,” he said. “Men should step up and put skin in the game for attracting and educating female engineers.”

The couple hopes fellow Buckeye engineers and friends will join them in giving to the scholarship fund to further extend its impact.

“Do you want more of that energy, more of that pioneering spirit? More people who have talent for this?” Lavash asked. “You can enable real change, for this university, for those individuals and for the world.”

Join Bruce and Judy Lavash by making a gift to the Bertha Lamme Endowed Scholarship Fund to support women engineers.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,