Thyrsa Frazier Svager

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Thyrsa Frazier Svager
Thyrsa Frazier Svager.jpg
Thyrsa Anne Frazier

(1930-06-16)June 16, 1930
DiedJuly 23, 1999(1999-07-23) (aged 69)
Alma mater
Known for
  • One of the first African-American woman PhDs in mathematics
  • Scholarship fund for African-American women in mathematics
Scientific career
  • Mathematics

Thyrsa Anne Frazier Svager (June 16, 1930 – July 23, 1999) was an American academic who was one of the first African-American women to gain a PhD in mathematics. [1] Born in Ohio, she graduated from high school at the age of 16, going to Antioch College in Ohio and then doing her postgraduate degrees at Ohio State University. [2] Frazier Svager was the head of the Department of Mathematics at Central State University (CSU) in Ohio for decades, ending her academic career as provost and dean for academic affairs. [3] She and her husband, physics professor Aleksandar Svager, invested one of their salaries during their careers to build a legacy for scholarships. [4] [5] After her death, the Thyrsa Frazier Svager Fund was established to provide scholarships for African-American women majoring in mathematics. [6]


Early life and education

Frazier Svager was born Thyrsa Anne Frazier on June 16, 1930 in Wilberforce, Ohio. [2] Her mother, Elizabeth Anne Frazier, taught speech at Central State University (CSU), a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio. [3] Her father, G. Thurston Frazier, headed the Logistics Department at the Wright–Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. [3] He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, holding the position of Polemarch in the province. [3] [7] Frazier Svager had four sisters, Margaret Jane, Janie, Gail, and Connie, and a brother, Lafayette (Sonny). [3] [2]

Frazier Svager graduated from Wilberforce University Preparatory Academy in Ohio at the age of 16 in 1947, as class valedictorian. [2] [8] She attended Antioch College, a private liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, majoring in mathematics, with a minor in chemistry, and placed in the 99th percentile in the Princeton Senior Student Examination. [9] Frazier Svager was one of only four black students at Antioch: one of the others was Coretta Scott King, with whom she was friends. [8]

She gained a bachelor of arts degree from Antioch in 1951, going on to gain a master's (1952) and PhD from Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus in 1965, where Paul Reichelderfer was her doctoral advisor. [10] [11] Her dissertation was titled On the product of absolutely continuous transformations of measure spaces. [12]


Frazier Svager worked for a year at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, before teaching at Texas Southern University in Houston. [10] In 1954, she joined the faculty of CSU in Wilberforce. [10]

In 1967, Frazier Svager was appointed chairman of the department of mathematics. [13] She was awarded tenure in 1970. [14] [10] She spent a summer in DC in 1966 as a systems analyst at NASA, as visiting faculty at MIT in 1969, and in 1985, she undertook postdoctoral study at OSU during the summer. [2] She was provost and vice president for academic affairs when she retired in 1993. [8] [2] In March 1995, she returned for a short time to CSU as Interim President. [2]

Frazier Svager was active on the issue of scholarships, serving as the president of the local chapter of MOLES, a national association that provided scholarships for college students. [15] She was also a member of Beta Kappa Chi, the National Association of Mathematicians, and the Mathematical Association of America, and was involved with Jack and Jill of America. [15] [2] Frazier Svager participated in the meeting that founded the National Association of Mathematics in 1969. [2]

She wrote two books, CSU's Modern Elementary Algebra Workbook (1969), [16] and Essential Mathematics for College Freshmen (1976). [17]

Personal life

While on the CSU faculty, Frazier met Aleksandar Svager, a Holocaust survivor from Yugoslavia and physics professor at CSU. [4] [5] They married in June 1968 at her parents' home. [18]

Thyrsa Frazier Svager died on July 23, 1999. [19]


Both university professors with a strong commitment to furthering education opportunities, the Svagers lived on one income, investing the other to build a scholarship fund. [5] After her death, her husband established the Thyrsa Frazier Svager Fund at the Dayton Foundation, for African-American women who major in mathematics at one of six universities, with a legacy contribution planned. [6] [5] As of February 2017, 33 women had received support from the Fund. [5] An annual contribution is also being made to the American Physical Society's Minority Scholarship. [4]


Frazier Svager was honored with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by CSU on her retirement, and she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Greene County, Ohio. [2]

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