Dr. Jan Cushman Named Distinguished Woman for OML Branch of the AAUW

(Kay de Groot, Photographer)
Jan Cushman, Ph.D. stands with her son James McGurk and husband Bruce McGurk at an outdoor luncheon in her honor Sept. 29, when she received an AAUW Distinguished Woman Award.

    As a Ph.D. recipient in toxicology, Dr. Jan Cushman is a role model for girls who want to enter the science field. This is but one of her accomplishments that led to her being chosen as Distinguished Woman of the Year for 2020 for the Orinda, Moraga and Lafayette (OML) branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  
    Due to the pandemic, instead of a May luncheon in 2020, she was honored at the Sept. 2021 meeting, which was an outdoor brunch with masked and vaccinated attendees.
    Cushman’s primary focus has been the AAUW Tech Trek program, which sends middle school girls to a week-long science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camp held at Stanford University.
    The OML branch sends six or seven girls each year from Orinda Intermediate, Stanley and Joaquin Moraga. Cushman, who heads the OML Tech Trek committee, is responsible for accepting applications, interviewing applicants and providing a social orientation before and after the camp. She’s also active with the girls since she served as dorm mom for four years.
    “The girls who attend the camp tell me that enjoying STEM activities with like-minded girls validates them pursuing STEM subjects in school,” said Cushman. “I know sometimes they find it hard to fit in while taking STEM classes, so hearing this makes all the work with Tech Trek worth while.”
    Cushman comes from Ithaca, New York, where her father was a professor at Cornell and her mother an educator and high school principal. In high school, both Jan and her husband Bruce McGurk, were in band, where she played the clarinet and he played the trombone.  
    Young love flourished, and so did education. The couple found programs that gave them strong credentials and allowed them to be together. They were married in 1978 before they moved to Utah to attend graduate school at Utah State University.  
    “We picked that school because it had good programs in both toxicology and watershed science. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences funded my work while Bruce had support from his department and living stipends were paid for,” said Cushman.        After completing their degrees, Jan prowled the yellow pages looking for a job. When she was invited to be interviewed in the toxicology department at Chevron, she spent some time learning what she’d need to know for the interview.
    She got the job, and Bruce was hired at the U.S. Forest Service research office in Berkeley. Jan worked for Chevron’s Energy Technology Company in the toxicology department for almost 30 years, where her final job was in the Product Stewardship Unit. 
    Both are involved with scouting, and Jan volunteers as the Girl Scout Gold Award Coordinator, which is the highest award a girl can earn in Scouts. She also worked with the Lamorinda Community Emergency Response Team. Cushman is now serving as president of the OML AAUW branch. 

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