UA Little Rock to honor ‘Hidden Figure’ Raye Montague with 10th annual Fribourgh Award

David Montague and Raye Montague

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will celebrate the life and achievements of the late Dr. Raye Jean Jordan Montague at the 10th annual Fribourgh Awards Reception Thursday, Oct. 10.

The late Dr. Montague, an internationally registered professional engineer with the U.S. Navy, is credited with creating the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship.

The Fribourgh Award honors individuals who have made considerable contributions to the state of Arkansas through mathematics and science. This year’s reception will be from 6-8 p.m. at Chenal Country Club, 10 Chenal Club Blvd., Little Rock. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at this website. Sen. Joyce Elliot will serve as the event’s emcee and give a memorial to the event’s presenting sponsor, the late Dr. Garry Glasco.

Proceeds will be used to create the Raye Jean Jordan Montague Endowed Scholarship Fund that will help UA Little Rock attract and retain high-achieving, full-time students majoring in math and science with preference given to minority women.

This year’s award recipient has a special connection to the university. Montague’s son is Dr. David Montague, director of eLearning and professor of criminal justice at UA Little Rock, who will receive the award on his mother’s behalf. According to David Montague, his mother would have loved to receive this award because of her love of STEM subjects, especially math.

My mother loved math as a young student during the 1940s and 1950s, a time in which it was even more difficult for girls and women to be taken seriously in such academic areas,” he said. “She told me that at the same time that many of her colleagues sought to take home economics, she actively sought taking shop and as many math and science classes as she could.”

The story of Raye Montague’s contributions in engineering, computer science, and the advancement of women in the sciences was brought to public attention in recent years after the 2017 release of the “Hidden Figures” movie, which highlighted the story of African-American women who played a crucial role in helping NASA send astronaut John Glenn to orbit the Earth in 1962. Montague was recognized as the U.S. Navy’s real-life “hidden figure” during naval events in Washington, D.C. and Virginia and on the Feb. 20, 2017, live episode of “Good Morning America.”

Montague earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff because the engineering school at the University of Arkansas did not accept minorities at the time. She began her career with the U.S. Navy in 1956. She was the first female professional engineer to receive the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Achievement Award, the National Computer Graphics Association Award for the Advancement of Computer Graphics, and the first female to serve on the board of directors for the Numerical Control Society.

Montague held a civilian equivalent rank of captain and was the U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships. Credited with creating the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship, Montague completed the process in fewer than 19 hours, when the process had previously taken two years. Among many other honors, Montague was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972, the navy’s third-highest honorary award. She was also nominated for the Federal Woman of the Year Award the same year.

After her 33-year naval career, Montague retired in 1990 and was presented with a flag that had flown over the nation’s capital in her honor. She was passionate about highlighting the value of education and encouraging girls to get involved in STEM education, receiving many awards and commendations over the years for volunteering with youth.

“Both before and during her retirement, my mother actively spoke with students across the United States, especially in Arkansas, to assure them that as long as they have the drive to succeed and ability to grasp the concepts, there is a way to have a fulfilling career in STEM fields, no matter what you look like or where you are from,” David Montague said.

After returning to Arkansas in 2006, she spent many years as a mentor, volunteer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mother and grandmother in Little Rock. Montague mentored prison inmates through UA Little Rock’s community re-entry program and students at the eStem Elementary Public Charter School in Little Rock. Additionally, she was an active volunteer with LifeQuest, The Links Inc., the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and the American Contract Bridge League.

In recent years, Montague was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Arkansas Academy of Computing. In 2018, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The Arkansas Science Olympiad named a new prize after Montague, which is awarded to the highest ranking majority female team, to encourage more women to participate in the sciences.

UA Little Rock is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Fribourgh Awards, which began in 2010 to honor the late Dr. James H. Fribourgh, UA Little Rock professor emeritus, who served for more than 45 years as chair of Life Sciences, interim chancellor, vice chancellor for academic affairs, and distinguished professor of biology.

“We appreciate the opportunity to recognize the late Dr. Raye Montague for her outstanding contributions and noteworthy work in the nation’s scientific and mathematical community,” said Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement. “Her legacy of embracing education, breaking barriers, commitment to family, and service to her country will never be forgotten.”

Past recipients include Jerry B. Adams, president and CEO of Arkansas Research Alliance; H. Watt Gregory III, partner at Kutak Rock LLP; Dr. Charles E. Hathaway, UA Little Rock chancellor emeritus and Donaghey distinguished professor; Peter Banko, former president and CEO of St. Vincent Health System and now president and CEO at Central Health; Dr. James Hendren, former CEO and chairman of Arkansas Systems Inc.; Dr. Mary Good, founding dean of the UA Little Rock College of Engineering and Information Technology; Jerry Damerow, a retired Ernst and Young partner, and Sherri Damerow, a retired kindergarten teacher; and Cory Davis, partner and principal consultant at the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.

For more information, please contact Derek Boyce at dcboyce@ualr.edu or 501-683-7355.

In the upper right photo, David Montague (left) is shown with his mother, Raye Jean Jordan Montague. Photo by UA Little Rock Communications.

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