From One Graduate to the Deanship


Look around Purdue’s campus today and you will see many powerful women in leadership roles. In fact, a typical Purdue agriculture class has more females than males. But this was not always the case.

Lillian Louise Lamb from Economy, Indiana, was the first woman to challenge the idea that men would dominate agriculture. Graduating alongside 68 men in 1919, Lamb was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in agriculture — 50 years after Purdue was founded.

After 1920, female enrollment very slowly increased; but in 1969, Purdue’s centennial year, only 117 women had earned Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degrees compared to 9,133 men. With the establishment of Purdue’s veterinary school in 1959, more women began to enter the agriculture field.  Since then, women have played an increasingly significant role within the college.

Karen Plaut, Purdue Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture

Karen Plaut, Glenn W. Sample Dean, College of Agriculture

In 2016–17, 386 women and 285 men earned bachelor’s degrees from the Purdue College of Agriculture, highlighting a dynamic gender change during the past 50 years.

When Karen Plaut was selected as Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture at Purdue, women moved from a single graduate 100 years ago to the highest-ranking leadership position with Purdue’s College of Agriculture. Women will continue to help lead the industry forward.

 — by Hannah Tucker (Purdue ’18)



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