Gold (third from the left) pictured with her Strategic Advisory Group colleagues. Early in her career she was usually the lone female. Photo: Courtesy Ted Gold
Photo Caption & Credits

Airman for Life: New STEM Scholarship

Dec. 1, 2019

Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold, a pioneer for women in math and science, earned her Ph.D. in Theoretical Mathematics from the University of California, Berkley, in 1973, when she was already the mother of three.

Now a new Air Force Association scholarship program will help other women to follow in her footsteps. Beginning in 2020, female graduating high school seniors who are dependents of currently serving Active Duty, Guard or Reserve, or retired Air Force members will be eligible for the Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold Memorial Scholarship, worth $5,000 per year for up to four years for young women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, or math.

Sydell Gold was an adventurer: She read, traveled, biked, ran marathons, backpacked, and snorkeled. Photo: Courtesy of Ted Gold

Gold was a senior system analyst in the Evaluation and Planning Division of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from 1974 to 1980, including an assignment near Washington, DC, as a laboratory representative to the Department of Defense/Department of Energy Long-Range Planning Study for the nuclear weapons stockpile. She then joined the National Security Council staff as a technical appointee, serving under Presidents Carter and Reagan. In 1982, was appointed deputy for strategic requirements in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research, Development, and Logistics.

In the 1990s, Gold was senior vice president and deputy manager of SAIC’s Advanced Technology & Analysis sector, and in 2000 she was awarded the Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award for her contributions supporting women in aerospace. “Being recognized for helping women achieve professional goals by an organization dedicated to women’s advancement is especially gratifying,” she said after receiving the award.

Among her contributions, she collaborated with retired Adm. Bobby Inman to establish a Women’s Business Forum at the company, which helped women in mid-level technical and management jobs meet with members of the company’s board of directors.

Gold was appointed in 1992 as one of the five original members of the Joint Advisory Committee on Nuclear Weapon Surety. She also was a member of the US Strategic Command Strategic Advisory Group and served on the Defense Science Board and on National Academy of Sciences task forces. Gold retired from SAIC in 2006 and passed away in 2008.

Born in New York City, Gold attended the Bronx High School of Science, one of the city’s premier public high schools, then attended Barnard College. She earned a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of New Mexico in 1962 and immediately began her career in applied mathematics at Sandia National Laboratories, where she worked until 1967.

The scholarship award, set up in Gold’s name by her husband, Ted S. Gold, and their children, follows another scholarship for Bronx Science grads. A past winner of that scholarship, now studying civil engineering at Columbia University, wrote, “What makes this scholarship so special is that you’re not only receiving financial aid, you’re winning a role model: Sydell’s story is a very empowering one; she wasn’t afraid to take risks and pursue her dreams in a field that was predominantly male.”

To be eligible for the Dr. Sydell Perlmutter Gold Memorial Scholarship candidates must be:

  • A graduating female high school senior who has excelled in mathematics;
  • Accepted into an accredited four-year college or university;
  • Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math;
  • Be the dependent of a currently serving Active Duty, Guard or Reserve, or a retired Air Force member.
  • Preference will be given to applicants who are first-generation college students and have demonstrated financial need. To be eligible to renew the annual award, recipients must continue to study a STEM subject and submit an annual letter updating AFA on how the scholarship has influenced their lives and career aspirations.