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Alumni Newsletter

Ruth Gruenfelder Koppel: The First Woman Inducted into HKN

By March 1, 2021 No Comments


In 1947, the Beta Beta Chapter at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, NY inducted Ruth Gruenfelder Koppel as its first ever female member. It turns out, Ruth was not only the first woman HKN member at Beta Beta, she was the first, and for the next four years, the only female member of the entire HKN Society.

The Chapter inducted Ruth, an electrical engineering major attending night classes at the university, not knowing that the National Charter did not allow female members.

It wasn’t until 1951 that the National Charter was amended, to drop the “male qualification” for membership, according to History of Eta Kappa Nu by Larry Dwon.


Immediately after her induction, the 42 other university chapters and the 10 alumni chapters were polled, and Ruth’s induction was confirmed. At the time, however, it was not known if the National Charter would change. So for a time, Ruth was the first and the last woman HKN member.

Ruth worked as a project engineer at the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Garden City, NY, while studying at Polytechnic University, according to a 6 March 1949 article in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper.

At the time, she expected to study for a master’s degree with the goal of becoming a consulting engineer, the newspaper article reads. She met her husband, Arthur Koppel, while the two were lab partners in one of their courses at Polytechnic.

It was a distant relative of Mr. Koppel’s who brought this story — and an important chapter in IEEE-HKN’s history, to IEEE-HKN Director Nancy Ostin.

IEEE-HKN is grateful for the countless contributions women engineers have made to our honor society, to our industry and to the global community.

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