Josephine Chanler Scholarship

Dr. Josephine Chanler with Padmini Joshi and Nalini Joshi.
Dr. Josephine Chanler with Padmini Joshi (PhD '69) and Nalini Joshi.

Established in 2020-21 by Padmini Joshi (PhD '69), the Josephine Chanler Scholarship is named in honor of alumna and professor emerita Dr. Josephine Hughes Chanler (MA, '30, PhD '33), an American mathematician specializing in algebraic geometry. It is awarded to undergraduate students based upon GPA and strength of courses.

Born April 7, 1906, in St. Louis, Dr. Chanler graduated from Kentucky State University, then entered graduate school at UIUC, where she was a student of A.B. Coble. After completing her PhD in 1933, she joined the faculty, and she remained at Illinois until she retired in 1971. After her retirement, she devoted much time to tutoring students.

Padmini Joshi's Story

Padmini Iyengar graduated from Bombay University a B.A. (Hons) degree in 1947 in compulsory English and mathematics (major) and anM. A. degree in 1949 in mathematics (major) and statistics (minor). Padmini came to the United States for the first time in September 1950 on a Fulbright travel grant to pursue graduate studies in mathematics at Bryn Mawr College on a resident graduate fellowship. She enrolled there at the end of September 1950, completed all the requirements for a master’s in modern mathematics, and was awarded an M. A. degree in June 1951.

She returned to India on June 10,1951, and joined Fergusson College (her Indian Alma Mater). She  married T M. Joshi, who was then president of the B.M. College of Commerce. She taught at Fergusson College (1951-62) and (1953-54), Poona University (1954-55), and the M.E. S.College (1957-58) and (1959-62), taking four years off to have three children (daughters Ragini and Nalini and son S.T.). Because getting a better position required Ph.D, she decided to return to the United States. On the recommendations of Professors J.C. Oxtoby and Marguerite Lehr of Bryn Mawr College, Padmini was granted a half-time teaching assistantship in the mathematics department of UIUC for the academic year 1962-63.

Because Padmini had no experience teaching undergraduate classes in the United States, she was assigned along with three other graduate assistants to help Professor Josephine Chanler in her analytic geometry class. Professor Chanler became Padmini’s mentor as well.

In the spring session, Padmini taught her own analytic geometry class. Also that spring, Bryn Mawr College awarded the Emmy Noether Fellowship to Padmini for the year 1963-64. Although the Indian government allowed Padmini’s family to join her on the strength of this award, the American consul at Bombay refused to grant them the visa unless somebody guaranteed their repatriation.

Padmini came to Altgeld Hall to teach her class just after she got this upsetting news from India. She began crying, and went to the women’s restroom opposite the Math Office to compose herself before meeting her students. Just then, Professor Chanler walked in and asked what was wrong.  After getting anexplanation from Padmini, she immediately went to see Department Chair Paul Bateman, who agreed to provide the guarantee. This enabled Padmini’s family to join her on July 12, 1963. Padmini went on to earn her Ph.D. degree at Illinois in 1969, and her children were able to accomplish their education goals and establish careers in the United States. Padmini says this was all possible because of the timely intercession of Professor Chanler and the generosity of Professor Bateman.

When Padmini went to India in December of 1994 to immerse the ashes of her husband in the holy river Godavari, she established a prize in mathematics at Fergusson College in Professor Chanler’s name. It was awarded for the first time in 1996.

Padmini had long wished to do something similar at UIUC.  Accordingly, the Professor Josephine Chanler Scholarship was awarded for the first time in January 2021 and will be awarded every year thereafter. Padmini says, "This honor in memory of a great saintly lady brought much happiness to my family."


Editor's note: We were deeply saddened to learn of Padmini Joshi's passing on January 2, 2023. More about Dr. Joshi's life can be found in her obituary. To contribute to the Josephine Chanler scholarship fund, visit our giving page.


Scholarship Recipients

2022: Garrett Credi

2021: Suchetan Dontha