Chemical Engineering '86
When alumna Deborah (Flower) Boice took office in January as president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), she made history as the first female president of the 61-year-old international organization. During her one-year term, she hopes to inspire more women and minorities to the field of fire protection engineering.
"It's a cool field to be involved in … helping to make sure that your community is safe," she says.
Her leadership role with SFPE, which includes 5,000 members, is the culmination of more than two decades of work. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, she went to work for Swiss Re in property insurance sales. Today, she is the company's senior vice president for the Western United States.
Boice credits her early career success in part to her education at Cal Poly Pomona and its learn-by-doing philosophy.
"I used many things that Cal Poly Pomona brought to the table," she says. "Its hands-on learning gave me the ability to really know versus just book learning."
During her career, she has made "significant contributions" to the profession, says Chris Jelenewicz, SFPE engineering program manager.
Boice is a past president of the SFPE's Southern California Chapter and has served on the international organization's Board of Directors since 2002. She also is an SFPE Fellow, representing a distinguished and accomplished group of members.
"Fire protection engineering is about protecting people and property," Boice explains. "We are working on re-crafting our message and rolling out new programs."
To that end, the SFPE has provided lesson plans for high school chemistry teachers and is encouraging more universities to offer the major. Only a handful of institutions in the United States offer a degree in fire protection engineering, which essentially seeks to ensure buildings are constructed with an eye toward fire safety.
She hopes these programs help pique more interest among youths, women and minorities to seek out careers in fire protection engineering, a field where demand far outweighs supply. And, she adds, it's a way to make a real difference to communities.
In addition to SFPE and Swiss Re, Boice also juggles the demands of her active family. She and her husband, Bruce, are the parents of two teenage boys, Trent, 17, and Tyler, 14.
- Carla Sanders, Panorama, Vol. 12 No. 2, Spring/Summer 2011
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