Vivienne Malone-Mayes: the fifth African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics.


Vivian Malone Mays was born on February 10, 1932. She was the fifth African American woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics. Malone Mays was born and raised in Waco, Texas. She was only 16 years old when she graduated from A.J. and attended Moore High School. He attended an independent high school in Waco, where he did well and soon moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he enrolled at Fisk University.

Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, one of the first two African American women to earn a PhD in mathematics, taught her at Fisk University. Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville inspired Marlon Myers to pursue more education in mathematics. Marlon Myers received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fisk University. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1952 and his master’s degree in 1954.

Marlon Myers then returned to Waco and served as chair of the mathematics department at Paul Quinn College from 1954 to 1961. He tried to go to Baylor University in Waco, but was not admitted because of his race. Marlon Mays was admitted to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, which desegregated in the early 1950s.

She went on to college and received her Ph.D. in mathematics in 1966. She was the second black person and the first black woman to earn a doctorate in any field at the University of Texas.

In 1966, Marlon Mays returned to Waco. She became the first African American professor at Baylor University, where she had been denied admission to graduate school five years earlier. Marlon Mays was a lifelong Baylor employee until 1994, when he became ill and was forced to retire as a result.

As a woman of color working at Baylor, Marlon Meyers had to constantly fight for civil rights throughout her time there. In the 1970s, federal officials would come to campus to check on her to see if her salary and promotions were the same as those of her co-workers. Marlon Mays told federal officials that he was satisfied with his treatment and did not feel he was being treated unfairly.

However, when the Reagan-Bush administration came to power in the 1980s, civil rights agencies and their activities were severely curtailed. Marlon Meyers said he felt that without federal oversight, he would not be respected as a professor.

Marlon Meyers was the first black woman to be elected to the executive committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics. She did this outside of Baylor University. She also serves on the board of the National Association of Mathematicians, which works with the black community and other math organizations. She also worked with groups in the Waco area, serving on the boards of Goodwill Industries, Family Counseling & Children’s, and New Hope Baptist Church, where she taught youth choir and played the organ from 1960 to 1975.

Vivian Malone Mays died of a heart attack on June 9, 1995, in Waco, Texas. She was the fifth African American woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics. As such, she had a significant impact on many organizations working on issues for women and people of color.