Three outstanding women, two in the optics industry, were honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame as Keepers of the Flame on Monday, December 17. The designees were Dr. Susan Houde-Walter, President and CEO of LaserMaxDefense (LMD), Dr. Alexis Vogt, Associate Professor of Optics at Monroe Community College, and Carol Ritter Wright, former Rochester Democrat & Chronicle journalist, columnist, and auctioneer extraordinaire who has raised many millions of dollars for non-profits in the Rochester region.
The honorees were presented with the Keeper of the Flame award for their significant contributions to their respective fields.
Dr. Susan Houde-Walter is CEO and Chairman of the Board at LaserMax, Inc. She co-founded LaserMax in 1989. She became Chief Executive Officer of LaserMax in 2002 and successfully shifted the Company’s focus from semiconductor/telecom OEM to the laser aiming market for law enforcement and homeland security to maintain steady growth and profitability. Susan invented thermal laser markers based on quantum cascade laser technology, leading to a new line of business for the Company. Prior to joining LaserMax in her capacity as CEO, Dr. Houde-Walter served as a tenured Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester, the first woman to serve in that role in the university’s history.
In her acceptance speech, Dr. Houde-Walter cited Harriet Tubman as a hero. “She had great heart, and the courage to do what was right. She was a humongous inspiration to me, as was Maya Angelou. To be associated in any way with these people is such an honor.”
Dr. Alexis Vogt, currently Endowed Chair & Associate Professor of Optics at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY, teaches in the only Optical Systems Technology program in the nation. A PhD from the University of Rochester Institute of Optics with a specialized emphasis on polarization engineering, coherence theory and microscopy, Dr. Vogt has already achieved career objectives that many people only dream about.
In her acceptance speech, Dr. Vogt said,“[Because of my family and the way that my siblings and I were raised…], it never even occurred to me that there were people that thought that there were limitations on what women or girls can do.”
Carol Ritter Wright was born and raised in Seneca Falls. She worked as a reporter and columnist for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and Times Union newspapers for many years, retiring in 2004. She attended Missouri Auction School in 1990 and began volunteering her services as an auctioneer for charities, schools, churches and not-for-profit organizations in and around the Rochester region. To date, she has raised more than $5.5 million for dozens of agencies, ranging from Special Olympics and the Red Cross to the Breast Cancer Coalition.
“I don’t believe that the concept of true equality is understood by a great many people.” said Ritter Wright. “And I don’t like the phrase ‘women and minorities.’ It’s a lie. We are half the population. White males comprise 31 per cent of the United States population, That’s a minority!”
The reception and awards ceremony were held at Nextcorps, in Sibley Square in Downtown Rochester.
Video of the proceedings is on Facebook.