Susan E. Graber, class of 1971


Susan E. Graber begins Part 1 her interview by sharing some family background information such as her mother’s college education and the expectation that her children would also attend college. She explains why she chose to attend Pembroke College and recalls some difficulties she faced as a woman pursuing science. Graber remembers her ambivalence about pursuing graduate school and the overall assumption that Pembroke graduates would go on to a career or graduate work.

Graber says one of her favorite aspects of her time at Pembroke was living in a dormitory and the social atmosphere it fostered. She considers the way gender roles were articulated at Pembroke and through her parents, and mentions some of the beliefs Brown students held about Pembroke students, but she notes that Pembroke was much more exclusive than Brown and much more difficult to get into. She goes on to generally discuss dating and marriage norms, and remembers having to work harder than her male classmates to be taken seriously in the physics department. She asserts that sexism was much more obvious in the workforce.

Also in Part 1, Graber explains the prevalence of anti-Vietnam War and anti-Apartheid sentiments on campus, and recalls protests on campus that interfered with finals period and resulted in many students receiving “satisfactory” on the transcript versus a grade for the course. She shares memories specifically related to the 1968 student walkout and race issues on campus.

In Part 2, Graber reminisces about the new open curriculum that did away with course requirements and laments the Pembroke-Brown merger. She also regrets not having more faculty members become role models for her. She describes the work she does at Bell Laboratories in superconducting electronics, and the nature of having a career and children. She also considers the ways marriage and children have affected her career. Graber concludes her interview by explaining how it feels to have primarily male coworkers and that she would not change her career choices because of it.

Part 1

Part 2


Recorded on November 8, 1985
Interviewed by Jane Kroll

Suggested Chicago style citation: Graber, Susan E.. Interview. By Jane Kroll. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. November 8, 1985.


Susan E. Graber grew up in a suburb on Long Island, New York with her parents and older brother. Knowing she wanted to major in science, she chose to attend Pembroke College, as a coordinate college that offered the benefits of a big university science education with the comfort and security of a small female college. Following graduation, she received a graduate degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton. She worked at Bell Laboratory doing applied research and development. Graber is married and has three children.