(December 2, 1919 - July 7, 2007)
Charlotte Roderuck’s research focused on women’s nutrition during their reproduction cycles, aging, and the nutritional status of children in schools worldwide.
Charlotte Roderuck was born on December 2, 1919 in Walkerville, Maryland to George and Margaret (Hedges) Roderuck. In 1940, Charlotte graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry. From there, she continued her education and went on to obtain her Masters in Science in organic chemistry from Washington State College in 1942. In 1942, she took a brief break from higher education and worked as a research chemist in the Research Laboratory for the Children’s Fund of Michigan after her graduation from Washington State University in 1942 until 1946. From there, Charlotte then moved on to the University of Iowa, where she obtained her PhD in biochemistry in 1949.
In 1948, before she had even officially graduated from the University of Iowa (Iowa City), Charlotte accepted a position as an Assistant Professor with the Food and Nutrition department at Iowa State College (now University). In 1951, Charlotte was promoted to Associate Professor. From there, she went on to achieve the rank of Professor in 1954. While at Iowa State, Charlotte’s research focused on the nutritional status of women during their reproduction cycles, the nutritional status of children in schools, the nutrition among aging populations of women, and overall nutritional education. Additionally, she also studied the protein metabolism in animals and the influence of various other nutrients on the ways in which bodies utilized protein.
During her time at Iowa State, Charlotte had the opportunity to travel and perform research all over the world, including Nigeria, Honduras, Guatemala, and South Korea. Perhaps the most influential trip of her career was her time spent in India. Between January 1964 and April 1966 Charlotte had the opportunity to work with the home economics graduate program at the University of Baroda in Baroda, India. Her research trip was part of an exchange program between Iowa State and the University of Baroda, and several faculty from the University of Baroda had the opportunity to come work at Iowa State as well. While in Baroda, Charlotte’s research focused on the assessment of the nutrition of school children, a native tribal group called the Bhils, and that of pregnant and breastfeeding women. Charlotte was invited to present her research on these topics at the Institute of Science in Bangalore, India in February 1966; her work was so well received that it was published in the institute’s journal.
While her years in India were especially productive in terms of research, they certainly came with various challenges. Baroda was not nearly as cosmopolitan as Charlotte had expected. In order to perform her research, Charlotte needed small glass test tubes and micropipettes, but unfortunately those were no where to be found in Baroda, so Charlotte was forced to collaborate with a local glass blower who only spoke Hindi. Charlotte recalled that it “was not easy,” and she ultimately, “did a lot of the glass blowing [herself].” Her time in India may have been challenging, but Charlotte ended up leaving India with a great appreciation for the art, music, language and history.
Upon returning to Iowa State, Charlotte continued to pursue her research interests, but also shifted her focus to more administrative roles. She was appointed Assistant Dean of the Graduate College from 1971 until 1973. In 1972, Charlotte was honored for her work as an “outstanding scientist in the area of human nutrition…[and her] strong commitment to the betterment of health and well being of all people,” and was named the Mary B. Welch Distinguished Professor of Home Economics. A year later, in 1973, Charlotte was appointed as the Associate Dean of the College of Home Economics and named as the Assistant Director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station and held both positions until 1978. Last, but certainly not least, Charlotte was appointed as the Director of the World Food Institute in 1977.
With all of her service to the Iowa State and the academic community, Charlotte was an obvious choice as for the commencement address at the 1973 graduation ceremony. In her address to the graduates, she shared her hope “that all of you know you are growing, know what you are capable of doing, and realize that graduation from Iowa State University is the beginning of a new venture.” Charlotte’s commencement address was also noteworthy in that she was the first female speaker since Carrie Chapman Catt had spoken at the 1930 graduation ceremony.
Charlotte passed away on July 7, 2007 in Ames, Iowa and was buried in her home town of Walkerville, Maryland.
Charlotte E. Roderuck Papers, RS 15/6/51, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.
Forker, Barbara; Roderuck, Charlotte; and Beveridge, Elizabeth (1964) "Physically Fit For What?," Iowa Farm Science: Vol. 19 : No. 4 , Article 3.
Available at: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/farmscience/vol19/iss4/3