Mina Rees, president emerita of the graduate division of the City University of New York, mobilized the resources of modern mathematics for the national defense during World War II and later used her influence in gaining government support for the development of the earliest computers.
She began her career in education as a mathematician. Educated at Hunter College, Columbia University and the University of Chicago, she was instructor and professor of mathematics at Hunter from 1926 to 1943 and from 1953 to 1961.
During World War II, Rees took a leave of absence from Hunter, accepting a dual position as a technical aide to the Applied Mathematics Panel of the Office of Scientific Research and Development and the secretary to Warren Weaver, who headed the panel. Rees held a central position in the civilian panel, working to solve the U.S. Navy’s mathematical problems. For her work, she received the President’s Certificate of Merit and the King’s Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom from the British government.
After the war, she headed the mathematical science branch of the Office of Naval Research for three years and was appointed deputy science director before returning to Hunter College in 1953. She became professor of mathematics and dean of graduate studies at CUNY in 1961 and began her presidency of the division in 1969.
The recipient of numerous honorary degrees, Rees was also given the Alumni Medal and the Chancellor’s Medal of the City University of New York. She served as the first female president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a fellow of that association and of the New York Academy of Science.
She died in 1997.