First Female Valedictorian

Joan Davies Jefferys ’74 didn’t date in college. She didn’t socialize too much either. Mostly, she hit the books. “I pretty much studied,” recalls Jefferys, a math major. “I guess that’s how I ended up valedictorian,” she jokes.

The college’s first female valedictorian, Jefferys recalls being “totally accepted” by her male classmates. “There was no sexism,” she says. “In math and sciences, we were just one of the group. The professors would call on us, treat us just the same.”

Though math was her passion, she credits her professional destiny as a biostatistician to Robert H. Brewer in Trinity’s Biology Department. “My senior year, I was in the biology lab and the professor said he wanted to see me after lab in his office,” she remembers. “He asked why I had majored in math when I was so good at biology. All of a sudden, he mentioned biostatistics, which I had not heard of. I don’t think he really understood what it was either, but someone had given him a book about it. He hadn’t read the book, but he gave it to me. I got a blanket from the dorm, found a nice shady spot on the lawn, and started looking through the book. I ended up going to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where I studied biostatistics.”  

Johns Hopkins is where Jefferys has spent most of her professional life as a statistician working with medical research data. “If it weren’t for that biology professor,” she says, “I probably would never have ended up here.”

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