Ninetta May “Nettie” Runnals served as Dean of Women at Colby, her alma mater, for 27 years, advocating for gender equality for women students and faculty members. She came to Colby with the class of 1908, and studied mathematics. She furthered her education by attending Columbia University, earning her Master’s degree. In 1920 she accepted the position, offered by then president Arthur Roberts, as the first Dean of Women, beginning her career as Dean of Women and Assistant Professor of Mathematics (becoming a full professor in 1923.In 1929 Colby awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Read more about this remarkable woman.

In 2014, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics established the Ninetta Runnals Dinner for Women in Mathematics to honor the legacy of Dean Runnals and to celebrate the contributions of women in the mathematical sciences. Since 2015, the after dinner speech has been given by a distinguished woman mathematician, speaking on her journey through mathematics.
2015 Ruth Charney
2016 Chantal David
2017 Pamela Harris
2018 Helen Wong
2019 Mahlet Tadesse
2020 Anisah Nu’Man