Florence Helen Ashby has lived a life of many firsts. She was among the first dozen classes to graduate from a newly co-ed Florida State University in 1957. A few years later, she was hired as the only female system analysts for IBM at the Goddard Space Center on NASA’s TIROS Weather Satellite Project.
Then in 1966, she was among the first faculty members to teach at the brand new Rockville campus of Montgomery College. She joined as one of three female math professors. “I was hired because of my IBM background,” said Ashby, 79, from her home in Tallahassee, Fla. “The Rockville campus was very small at that time; we were like family.”
Passionate about the students, Ashby taught at the college for 44 years. She also sponsored a number student clubs, a job she loved. “I really got to know the students then,” she said. “I sponsored the pom-pom group, and my Chihuahua became their mascot. In my last few years, I sponsored the Ethiopian association. I learned all about their country and their dances.”
Throughout her career, Ashby looked for ways to do more for her students. In 1984, she established the Florence Muriel Ashby Endowed Scholarship, awarded to the best math student, in memory of her mother. A few years ago, she and her late husband, Laird Anderson, bequeathed a gift for the Florence Ashby and Laird Anderson Endowed Scholarship.
“I had a scholarship from the Elks (National) Foundation for college,” Ashby said. “It wasn’t big, but it helped.” Now, through her endowments, Ashby will continue to help students at Montgomery College in perpetuity, leaving a lasting legacy.