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Mary Carlson, establishes scholarship

‘Tis better to give than to receive – just ask Mary Carlson. A 1978 graduate of the University of Missouri, Carlson received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and has been working her way up the corporate ladder ever since. But one thing has remained constant-her need to give back.

Carlson recently established a scholarship at MU for undergraduate chemical engineering students directed towards women and/or minorities.

Throughout her career, Carlson has experienced a lack of women in engineering. She recalls her first engineering-related course at Mizzou in which she was the only woman out of about 100 classmates.

“I didn’t put together that engineering was mostly men. I even went out in the hall and checked the room number with my schedule,” Carlson said with a laugh.

After graduating, she began work at Procter & Gamble in Cape Girardeau, Mo., working as their first female warehouse team manager. Soon after she moved to Minneapolis and was hired by 3M Company where she spent 12 years in research and development and the last 17 years in manufacturing. Now living in Austin, Texas, she is the manufacturing director for 3M’s electrical markets division.

“I have a great job and I am very grateful,” Carlson said.

For Carlson, the establishing a scholarship means more than the ability to help students through school-it is a chance for improvement.

“There is a shortage of engineers nationwide, and we always have a need for engineers to work on continuous improvement,” Carlson said.

According to MU College of Engineering Director of Development Greg Cecil, the scholarship should be available for applicants in about a year.

“Normally the fund must reach $25,000 in order for it to develop scholarship funds.  I think hers will reach about $42,000 by next year but will not have reached the $25,000 level by the time scholarships are awarded,” Cecil said.

Since the mid-90s Carlson has been donating 10 percent of her income to Mizzou and various other organizations such as United Way, but it never occurred to her to establish a scholarship.

“When Greg Cecil approached me and said I had built up enough money to start a scholarship, I was surprised. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind and I didn’t realize over time you can build one up,” Carlson said. She took advantage of her company’s educational gift matching program to maximize her gift.

Carlson believes it is important to educate youth about math and science. She presented special sessions entitled “Fun and Adventure with an Engineering Career” for girls in grades 6 to 9 who attended career conferences at Iowa State University for four years beginning in 1999.

Carlson currently serves on the alumnae advisory board of MU’s Society of Women Engineers student section and the MU Dean’s Engineering Advisory Council. Last March, she received the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering from the College.