Martha Winsche

  • The Warren E. Winsche Memorial Scholarship

In 1983, the Winsche family established the Warren E. Winsche Memorial Scholarship at what was then known as Poly to honor alumnus Warren Winsche (POLY ’39), who spent much of his career at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Today, Martha Winsche continues to give to the scholarship in her father’s memory, providing much-needed support for Tandon students.


Tell us about your family's connection to Poly. 

My father [Warren Winsche] was born in Brooklyn and attended Erasmus High School [and later Brooklyn Poly]. I think he probably picked Poly because he could live at home and take public transportation to get there. His father had a steady income during the Depression (he was in the police force), and that steadiness allowed my father to attain higher education. He always valued the education he received from Brooklyn Poly.


What was your father's Poly experience like? What kind of impact did that experience have on his life?

I don’t really know. He didn’t talk about his higher education experience much. I know he felt that his Ph.D. thesis passed muster only because it was wartime — 1943.  I did find a reference to him being in the theater group at Poly as a sophomore — that was a surprise. I had never thought of him as a regular undergraduate exploring different things.


What was your father like? 

He was kind and genial, very smart and very funny.  He was very distrustful of big business and was devoted to research. He worked very hard and was part of some amazing technology transfers from basic research to human applications. Specifically, he was part of a group that “invented” technetium for use in nuclear medicine and for creating fuel cells based on magnesium hydrides for powering vehicles with hydrogen gas.


What inspired you to create a scholarship in your father’s memory? 

My mother decided to start the scholarship in his name. At one time, she added her name to the scholarship fund. She believed very strongly that “behind every great man, is a strong and supportive woman.”


Many of the Winsche Scholars are women. Why did your family feel it was important to support women in engineering? 

My mother had a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois (Phi Beta Kappa) but never felt that she was smart enough to go to graduate school.  Her job after graduating was cleaning laboratory glassware. My parents had three daughters and each had her share of discrimination in employment.  My middle sister had a Master’s in Library Science, but knew that all the heads of libraries were men, even though they were a minority in the field. I wasn’t able to deliver newspapers because only boys could do that. Both my mother and my father saw me struggle with starting out in Sociology and Psychology and then adding Mechanical Engineering to my resume. And they saw that my experiences as an engineer at Ford Motor had nothing to do with me and my abilities and had everything to do with the attitudes of the other employees. A Women in Science group was created at Brookhaven National Laboratory with my father’s encouragement and support.


What inspires you to continue supporting your family's scholarship fund? 

I want to continue supporting science and engineering, especially for underserved populations. Without having women working in the sciences to create the things and the technologies that power our world, the needs of half of the population are ignored or not considered.