Dr. Amy Le Vesconte: Her life and memoir

March 10, 2020

Written by: Alicen Ricard

Chemistry and Compassion is the memoir of chemist and beloved teacher, Dr. Amy Le Vesconte. Dr. Le Vesconte taught chemistry for four decades and became well known for being fun and extremely supportive. 

The book is composed of Dr. Le Vesconte’s journal entries along with her commentary about them and what else may have been going on at the time. The book also contains letters and messages from her former students and the huge impact she had on their lives. Dr. Le Vesconte travelled a lot in her life. After she went on a road trip from Minnesota to Philadelphia with some friends, she discovered how much she loved it, and her life as an adventurer began. 

Dr. Le Vesconte was born in 1898 in Prior Lake Minnesota. In 1919 she graduated from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota with a major in chemistry and a minor in mathematics. She was a high school teacher from 1919 to 1922 until she decided to get a master’s of science in chemistry degree, which she received in 1924. During the next few years, she was a graduate assistant in chemistry at Iowa State College, where she also got her Ph.D. in chemistry in 1928. Around this time she got really interested in travelling, but she wouldn’t take her first big trip for another few years. In the meantime, she worked as a chemistry instructor at the college while also writing a chemistry textbook with her professor, Dr. Nellie Naylor. 

She took her first international trip in 1930 to Formosa (now known as Taiwan) to visit her missionary sister. After returning to the states, she moved to Texas to teach at Baylor College (now known as the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor), where she would teach for the next twenty years. Over this time she would take a couple of small trips to Mexico and Asia. She was also inducted into the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1938.

From 1952 to 1956 she taught at Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina. Over this time she also took a summer trip to Europe and an around the world trip to Pakistan. She loved it so much that she actually taught at Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan from 1956 to 1957. She then returned to teaching at Flora MacDonald College until 1958. After that, she returned to Mary Hardin-Baylor College for the next ten years until 1968. 

After that, she took another around the world trip, this time to Taiwan where she taught English at the Tamsui Institute of Business Administration in Taiwan from 1968 to 1970. In 1970 she decided to retire and move to Austin, Texas. Between her retirement in 1970 and her death in 1985, she had two scholarships named after her.

Dr. Le Vesconte was the reason many of her students got into chemistry. She made her classes as fun as possible. The memoir is full of lovely letters from her students, which made it such a great read. If you’re interested in chemistry and awesome, inspiring women in STEM, this book is a great memoir to read. 

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