Five inventive Niskayuna women alumni make mark

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By REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Last week, we introduced six Niskayuna High School alumni whose innovations in the field of technology caught on in a big way.

Their contributions included the ubiquitous and the niche, and ranged from esoteric privacy encryption that has become standard online to smartphone apps that have changed the way we eat, exercise and travel.

But all the people on the list had one thing in common: they were all men.

This week, to balance the scales, meet five women whose discoveries, creations and achievements have made their hometown proud:

Kate Greenthal, class of 1999

It took the Oakland A’s more than 100 years from the team’s 1901 founding in Philadelphia to hire a woman to scout for the team. In 2012, the A’s broke their centurylong all-male streak by hiring Niskayuna alumna Kate Greenthal.

With an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, an MBA from Stanford Business School, and experience trading commodities for Goldman Sachs, Greenthal was hardly a gamble.

She is still a scouting assistant for the team, where she works alongside Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, who was the subject of the 2011 film “Moneyball.”

Katharine Herrick-Davis, class of 1979

Since receiving her Ph.D. from Albany Medical College in 1988, Herrick-Davis has worked to advance the fields of biochemistry and pharmacology by researching chemical receptors in the brain, auto-inflammatory drugs and cancer research. She is currently a professor at Albany Medical College.

Amy Jaffe Barzach, class of 1979

When Amy Jaffe Barzach lost her 9-month-old son to spinal muscular atrophy, she faced her grief by working to improve the world for children with disabilities.

Her son would have needed a wheelchair if he had survived, but Jaffe Barzach realized most playgrounds aren’t equipped to accommodate wheelchairs. The idea began her career in nonprofits. She founded Boundless Playgrounds, an organization that connected people building new playgrounds with professionals who could help make sure the final design was fun for kids of all ability levels.

Jaffe Barzach has since left the Boundless Playgrounds organization, but not before winning numerous accolades and awards. She was elected a North American Fellow by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public and won the Martha Stewart Dreamers into Doers award in 2008, among others.

She is currently the director for the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund at the University of Hartford.

Elizabeth Rosner, class of 1976

Novelist and poet Elizabeth Rosner has published three novels and a poetry collection. Her most recent novel, “Electric City,” hit closest to home. The book is set in Schenectady and explores a web of history, time, and love. It touches on inventor Charles Steinmetz and the influence GE has had on the growth of the region. Even if you’re not local, it’s a good read. It was named one of the best books of the year in 2014 by NPR.

Molly Fritz-Miller, class of 1965

Think twice before you complain about winter to Molly Fritz-Miller. The Vanderbilt University geology professor has been on multiple expeditions to Antarctica with graduate students and fellow researchers to find out what geology has to teach us in the southernmost place on the planet. Fritz-Miller earned her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1977 and was honored as Educator of the Year by the Association of Women Geo scientists in 2005.

Bonus: Meet Niskayuna alumna and award-winning author Anne Blankman, profiled here.

In case you missed it, last week’s alumni list is available online at dgaz.co/alumnnitech.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.