Distinguished Arkansas scientist Dr. Mary Good dies at 88

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 1,472 views 

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame.

Dr. Mary L. Good, founding dean at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Donaghey College of Engineering and former chairwoman of the Little Rock Technology Authority, passed away Wednesday (Nov. 20). Good, who was 88, was well known for her distinguished career that included serving in several high-level positions across the state and nation in academia, industry and government.

Funeral services have not been planned yet.

In one of her last public roles, Good spent more than five years as the first board chair for the Little Rock Tech Park. It was a period of turmoil that eventually led to the completion of the multi-tenant, 38,000-square-foot startup village located at the center of the downtown district in the 400 block of Main Street.

Good officially began her tenure leading the five-person Tech Park board in 2011 following a $22.5 million voter referendum that provided the authority with the startup capital to begin planning for the city’s first startup incubator. She resigned from the authority five years later in March 2016 after the board closed on a multimillion-dollar financial arrangement and a real estate deal to begin construction on the first phase of the downtown tech village.

“Dr. Good was a true pioneer and icon for women in science with an incredible resume of achievements. Her leadership as the first chairman of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority board was critical in getting the project from concept to reality. Like so many things in her career, she took on the perceived obstacles head-on and got things accomplished,” Tech Park Executive Director Brent Birch said.

Indeed, it was Good’s steady and firm hand in the Tech Park’s early years that helped the board navigate through several controversial events, including two eminent domain proceedings that both stalled the authority’s efforts to build the city’s first technology park.

Under enabling legislation passed by the Arkansas General Assembly as Act 1045, the authority was officially created in 2007. The publicly-financed board is sponsored by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), and the city of Little Rock, and governed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the sponsors.

As the UALR appointee, the former dean of the university’s engineering school ended her distinguished career in style after the Tech Park board unanimously passed a resolution to formally authorize a $17.1 million loan from a local Centennial Bank-led consortium to fund phase one of the downtown office complex.

Today, the Tech Park is now outfitted with 76 private offices and 75 open co-working at the Main Street location, and also includes meeting and event space, indoor bike racks, 24/7 access and onsite parking, and a corporate-level conference room named after Good. The six-floor complex is also fronted by its only retail tenant, the heavily-trafficked coffee bar operated by Blue Sail of Conway.

But the completion of the Tech Park in the summer of 2017 was just the last of a long list of career accomplishments that spanned several decades. One of Good’s foremost career accomplishments was being elected as president of the 143,000-member American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2000, replacing famed scientist Dr. Stephen Jay Gould.

A chemist by trade, Good was the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s highest honor, the Vannevar Bush Award. She was also the first female winner of the AAAS’s prestigious Philip Hogue Abelson prize for outstanding achievements in education, research and development management, and public service, spanning the academic, industrial, and government sectors.

Two of her more than 27 awards include the National Science Foundation Distinguished Service medal and the esteemed American Chemical Society Priestly Medal. She also received the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment in 2000 for her singular vision in working to build an economy fueled by scientific knowledge and technological know-how.

In the government sector, Good served on the National Science Board under both Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and chaired it from 1988-1991. She was the Undersecretary for Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce and Technology during President Clinton’s first term, assisting American industry to advance productivity, technology, and innovation in order to make U.S. companies more competitive in the global market.

Good has received 21 honorary degrees. Her undergraduate degree in chemistry is from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. She earned her doctoral degree in inorganic chemistry from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, at age 24. Dr. Good spent 25 years teaching and researching at Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans before becoming a guiding force in research and development for Allied Signal.

Good was tabbed to lead UALR’s engineering school in 1997. Where she also served as managing partner of Venture Capital Investors of Little Rock.