January 21, 1886 - June 26, 1947
Cora B. Hennel was born on January 21, 1886, in Evansville, Indiana. She came to Bloomington in 1903 to study at Indiana University. She earned her A.B. degree in 1907. As an undergraduate she was active in student affairs. She was also her class poet.
She went on to earn her Masters in Mathematics in 1908. While earning her masters, she was one of the founding members of the Euclidean Circle, a mathematics club for faculty and students.
In 1912 she received the first Ph.D. in Mathematics awarded by Indiana University. Her thesis was on linear difference equations and other functional equations, and was written under the direction of R. D. Carmichael.
(Aside: 4 Ph.D's were awarded that year, 2 in Botany, 1 in Zoology, and 1 in Mathematics.)
She was appointed Instructor in the Indiana Department of Mathematics in 1909, while she was working on her doctorate.
In 1913 she published a paper based on her thesis, entitled Transformations and Invariants Connected with Linear Homogeneous Difference Equations and other Functional Equations, in volume 35 (October, 1913) of the American Journal of Mathematics, pages 431-452 [Abstract]. She also joined the American Mathematical Society that year.
Dr. Hennel was appointed Assistant Professor in 1916, Associate Professor in 1923 and Professor in 1936. At the time of her promotion to full professor she was one of just 4 women at Indiana holding that rank.
She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Pi Lambda Theta, Mortar Board, and the Indiana Academy of Sciences. She served as president of the local chapter of the AAUP and the American Association of University Women, and as chairman of the Indiana Section of the Mathematical Association of America. She was known throughout the state of Indiana as an active and popular speaker, at alumni groups, high school graduations, professional and civic groups. She was also a published poet.
Mathematics professor, poet, speaker, administrator, one of the outstanding teachers on campus and one of the strengths of the Mathematics Department, but most of all an advisor and friend to students, she died in Bloomington, June 26, 1947, at the age of 61, after almost 40 years in the classroom giving herself to her students.
Cora Hennel and her family continue to support the Department of Mathematics at Indiana University through an endowed scholarship program that provides annual awards for several outstanding undergraduate math majors.
In 1995 the department officially named the faculty/student lounge in its renovated home in Rawles Hall the Cora B. Hennel Room.
This brief report is based in part on research by Donna Fink and a lecture by John Ewing for the Dedication of the new home of the IU Math Department in Rawles Hall, April 4, 1995. Important sources were the Indiana University Archives and the book, Letters from Honeyhill--A Woman's View of Homesteading, 1914-1931, by Cecilia Hennel Hendricks (Cora's sister and a professor of English at IU), compiled and edited by Cecilia Hendricks Wahl, 1985-86.
Photo Credit: Photograph used with the permission of the Department of Mathematics, Indiana University