Tech History

Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes – Black History Month

Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes was an African-American mathematician and professor who studied properties of functions, as well as methods of teaching mathematics. She is known for being the fifth African-American woman to gain a PhD in mathematics in the United States, and the first full-time African-American member of the faculty of Baylor University. 


Mayes was a very bright student and thanks to her parents avid encouragement for her to pursue an education, she was able to face the barriers of segregated education and not only graduate high school, but enter Fisk University at 16 years old, where she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree two years later studying mathematics.


After earning her master’s she chaired the Mathematics department at Paul Quinn College for seven years and then at Bishop College for one year before deciding to take further graduate mathematics courses. She had been rejected from Baylor University because of segregation, so soon later, she would take summer courses at University of Texas, and then eventually enroll. She was the only African American and only woman in the class, not allowed to teach and could not join off-campus meetings primarily due to segregation laws and was often isolated during her educational years. The civil rights movement was at its height during the years she was in graduate school, 1962-1966, and she would often join in civil rights demonstrations, joining picket lines to force restaurants and movie theaters to admit to African Americans.

Malone-Mayes’s research was in the field of functional analysis, specifically the properties of functions. She also worked on methods of teaching mathematics including a program using self-paced audio-tutorials. Malone-Mayes graduated in 1966, with a dissertation entitled “A structure problem in asymptotic analysis”.

Following graduation, Malone-Mayes was hired as a full-time professor in the mathematics department at Baylor University.

Awards and Memberships

Mayes was the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in Mathematics from University of Texas (and fifth African-American woman in the United States) and the first African-American person elected to Executive Committee of the Association of Women in Mathematics. Membership-wise, Mayes was a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Mathematics and was elected Texas Director-at-large of the Mathematical Association of America.

Student congress of Baylor voted her the “Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year” in 1971.


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