Women's History Month: Recognizing Some of UK's Notable Women Alumni

As the end of Women’s History Month nears, it is important to recognize some phenomenal women who got their start right here at the University of Kentucky.


  • Beverly Moore Eaves Perdue

Perdue graduated from the university in 1969 with a B.A. in History. Following graduation, she worked as a public school teacher and received a doctorate in education administration. This passion for education followed Perdue into her public service career in North Carolina where she served seven terms in the Senate and House, two terms as lieutenant governor, and one term as governor. In her time as the first female governor of North Carolina, she brought over 100,000 jobs, $22.5 billion in corporate investment, and innovative education reform to the state.


  • Nancy Duke Lewis (1910-1961)

Lewis earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky. She continued her education with graduate work at Syracuse University. She went on to become the Dean of Students at Pembroke College, the coordinate women’s college of  Brown University at the time. In 1949, she received a grant from the Carnegie Institute to travel the country studying Administration of Higher Education, or the organization and administration within the colleges she observed, making her the first woman to receive a grant of this kind.


  • Joyce Hamilton Berry

Although Berry did not receive a B.A. from UK, she did graduate from the master’s program with a degree in Special Education. She also went on to receive her Ph.D. in Guidance and Counseling from UK, making her the first African American woman to do so. She has used her degree to pursue teaching and counseling jobs such as her position as a psychologist at the Fayette County Children’s Bureau and her experiences with federally-funded Health Management Organizations both in Lexington and Washington D.C. As a result of her successes as a clinical psychologist, she now owns her own practice with offices in Washington D.C. and Columbia, Maryland. Aside from her career, she also serves as an advocate against discrimination as a member of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Urban League.


  • Chloe Gifford (1900-1982)

Gifford was the first woman to graduate from the UK College of Law; she then passed the state bar exam at age 21d. She served as the UK Director of Community Services where she implemented new programs across the Commonwealth. She served as the President of General Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization with members in over 60 countries,  for three years in which she traveled the world and got to know many international leaders. Aside from traveling for this organization, her community improvement work based on self-help gained international acclaim also gave Gifford a ticket to travel when many global leaders invited her to their country to share her community improvement work. She also left a research fund for the UK Albert B. Chandler Medical Center as a legacy here at the university.


  • Mary E. Sweeney (1879-1968)

After earning three degrees (One bachelor’s from Transylvania, one master’s of science from the University of Kentucky, and one master’s from Columbia University), Sweeney went on to have a very versatile career. Beginning with a long history of Home Economics, Sweeney explored many different career paths anywhere from teaching to serving as a North American Delegate to India and as a child welfare consultant in China. She also served in both World War I and World War II for which she received the U.S. Army citation for bravery. She was a prominent member of numerous organizations including the American Biochemical Society (Vice President) and the American Home Economics Association (President and Secretary). Sweeney’s list of positions and accomplishments goes far beyond the few mentioned above.


It’s needless to say these women have accomplished some amazing things, and they are not alone. There are countless women everywhere who have and will become role models just like these women. Unfortunately, I can’t recognize every empowered woman, but with the help of each and every one of you I’m sure we can get a little closer; remember to thank the women in your life this Women’s History Month (and also every other day)!