Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

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The Passing of Mary Ellen (Rathbun) Kolb ’46

From the President's Desk

To: The Rensselaer Community
Re: The Passing of Mary Ellen (Rathbun) Kolb ’46

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Mrs. Mary Ellen (Rathbun) Kolb, Class of 1946, on June 15, 2019. She was 96. Mrs. Kolb was one of the first two matriculating female students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering.

Mrs. Kolb entered Rensselaer during World War II. During the War, Rensselaer began to accelerate degree programs with three terms of 16 weeks each year, marking the end of the traditional seven-week courses. The four-year curriculum was replaced by one of only two and two-thirds years, and new classes entered three times yearly. The Rensselaer Institute Archives and Special Collections contains a two-part oral history interview with Mrs. Kolb.

After graduating, Mrs. Kolb worked for a short period for Chrysler Research Labs, where she was the lead author on a bibliography of electronic microscopy in U.S. industrial labs at the time. She married fellow Rensselaer graduate Edward (Ed) Paul Kolb, Class of 1944, and they raised five children — Mary Jane, Paul, Jean, John, and Nancy — in Nyack, New York. 

Her legacy at Rensselaer lives on through her family: Mary Jane Kolb Stanley graduated from Rensselaer in 1969, John Kolb (our Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer) graduated in 1979, and granddaughter Kristy Kolb Schmidt graduated in 2008. 

Mrs. Kolb is survived by five children, 13 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. 

Our deepest thoughts are with the family of Mrs. Mary Ellen (Rathbun) Kolb, and we honor the contributions she made to both the Rensselaer community and to the world.