Theresa M. "Terry" Korn

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building

Honored By

Honored by: Friends & Colleagues
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Born as Theresa McLaughlin in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 5th 1926, Korn was a year old when a violent storm prompted the family to move to Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

As a child Korn was inspired by her father who worked as a civil engineer building infrastructures such as dams and water tunnels. He also invented a drilling-gun that would not backfire thus keeping his crew members safe. Korn became very intrigued with how things worked and engineering.

Theresa Korn's curiosity motivated her to get good grades in school and become active in her community. She was an editor for the school year book and Valedictorian of Greensburg High School in 1943. That same year she won the Bausch and Lomb Science Award and a Carnegie Scholarship to attend the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now called Carnegie Mellon University. However, she could not use the Carnegie Scholarship for the engineering school because at the time women were only admitted into the Margaret Morrison Women's College. There Korn could take the same engineering classes as her male peers, but she would only earn a Bachelor's in Science degree. Korn felt that this 'was grossly unfair' and told her good friend Emma, a pilot in the Women Air force Service Pilots program (W.A.S.P.), who gave Korn the money for her tuition. Emma correctly assumed that if Korn refused the scholarship, the school would accept her. That same year, Korn was accepted into the Engineering program.

The university was a 35 miles commute from Korn's home where she lived with her ailing father (her mother had passed away soon after Korn had graduated from high school). Korn's father would ask her about all of the things she was learning in school and they bonded over discussions of dam construction and the like. Korn notes that there were times that she studied through the night 'having just enough time to shower before leaving the house again.' While attending school she earned her First class radio operators' license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and began working on the weekends as a broadcast engineer for Greensburg radio station WHGB.

Korn recalls that her negative educational experiences mostly came from male faculty members, not her classmates. In fact, one professor told her that he 'did not teach math to girls.' Korn also recalls that it was her male classmates that nominated her for Eta Kappa Nu, the National Honor Society for Electrical Engineering. Unfortunately the chapter would not extend a membership to women so she was not allowed to join. Nonetheless in 1947, Korn turned in the best senior paper that year among her peers; grudgingly, Eta Kappa Nu awarded her a certificate to honor her achievement. Korn earned her Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1947.

After college, at her first job interview, Korn was told that 'they were expecting a man' and that 'there were no bathrooms for women on the engineering floor.' Korn left and applied to Curtiss-Wright in Columbus, Ohio and was hired as a junior engineer, 'the only title women engineers could have.' Later she was promoted to the restricted research department where she researched missiles. This is where she met Dr. Granino A. Korn (G. Korn) who was the head of the Analysis division. By September 3rd 1948, the couple was married. G. Korn saw his wife to be his equal. Korn recalls that during preparing for their honeymoon G. Korn 'was asked who should take care of the Analysis while he was gone?' His reply was, 'Well, Terry, Can handle that.' The office laughed at G. Korn's natural response to recommend her, forgetting that she was going with him on their honeymoon. Because of a nepotism policy, Korn lost her job and was unemployed until Curtiss-Wright loaned G. Korn to Boeing. At Boeing they were both able to work; G. Korn built a computer at one plant while Korn worked on the B52 tail section analysis at another plant. After a few years G. Korn decided to expand his consultant work and
Korn chose to co-author a biography, Trailblazer to Television, with her mother-in-law Elizabeth Korn.

In 1952 the couple decided to start up G.A. and T.M. Korn Industrial Consultants. They began writing books about computers. In 1952 they published Electronic Analog Computers. In 1961they co-wrote Electronic Analog and Hybrid Computer. In 1964, the Manual of Mathematics, in 1967 Mathematical Handbook for Scientists and Engineers: Definitions, Theorems, and Formulas for Reference in 1968. All of these books were reprinted in multiple languages. Indeed the Korns are considered pioneers in the computer community. Korn remarked, that 'this was a very exciting time in the computer world and for us.'

Korn began to manage the business from home after the birth of their daughter Ann Marie in 1953. However, the start of her family did not slow Korn down; she continued her education and by 1954 she had earned her Master's degree from the University of California in Los Angeles and in 1955 Korn gave birth to their son John.

G. Korn's work brought his family to Tucson in 1957 and founded the Computer Engineering Research Laboratory, CERL, at the University of Arizona. During this time, Korn balanced their consulting business, raised their children and was active in the Tucson community. Korn was a member of the Arizona and Tucson Consumer's Council (1970-1976) and she worked on the Governor's Advisory Commission on the Environment (1974-1976). In addition to various other activities, Korn was a board member, risk manager, and treasurer for Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona (1983-1989) and spent time volunteering at the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and other animal rights groups.

Korn received many awards and recognition for her accomplishments. These awards range from the SPCA animal groups, to a Women on the Move Award from the Y.W.C.A. However, the two awards she cherishes are the HAM radio license she obtained when she was 14 and the Civil Air Patrol award which gave her a pilot's license. Korn emphasizes that 'flying was a passion of mine ever after.'

Some of the greatest memories she has include being a part of the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Equal Rights Amendment campaign (ERA) and meeting Margaret Sanger in person. Another highlight was receiving recognition, with her husband, for being pioneers in the analog and digital computer world.