Bess Vance '55
"My education at Idaho made a major difference in my life and I feel good about giving to a public university. I'm pleased that I can contribute money that will go to set up an endowment for the college to use for a worthy cause forever."
Bess L. Vance earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering in 1955, the first woman to do so at the University of Idaho.
On December 8, 1954, a junior at the time, Bess was the second woman in the nation to become a member of Sigma Tau, the national engineering honorary.
Bess’ father, James M. Vance, also studied engineering at the University in the 1920s. Bess belongs to a long-time Vance family tradition of four-generations of University of Idaho chemical engineers including her brother John Vance who graduated in chemical engineering in 1964 and several uncles and cousins. Bess remembers Dwight Hoffman, chair of the department of chemical engineering, as her most influential professor.
Bess was hired at the Anaconda Mining Company in Butte, Montana after college. She did metallurgical test work in various capacities in Anaconda’s Research Department and then became a systems analyst in their data processing group.
Bess moved to Darwin, California, a mining town on the western outskirts of Death Valley, and became th plant metallurgist at the Anaconda’s Darwin Silver Mine and Mill.
Bess was then hired by the Davy McKee Corporation, a multinational engineering corporation. She worked on a variety of projects, including the training of staff and the start-up of a grass roots gold mine in Nevada. She also oversaw plant expansions at several soda ash recovery facilities in Wyoming.
Bess is currently enjoying retirement in El Sobrante, California, near San Francisco. She has taken up whaleboat rowing and single scull rowing for exercise. She does volunteer work for the Friends of the El Sobrante Library, the Oakland Museum of California and the San Leandro Monarch Butterfly Program.
The College of Engineering is honored to acknowledge the inaugural gift to the Lou Edwards Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering Campaign given by Bess Vance.