It is the early 1960s, and a computer programmer named James has debugged the most powerful computer in the world, codenamed Agnes. He is so pleased, he finally asks out his crush, Millie. But the super-smart Agnes gives James bad dating advice, sending Millie into the arms of someone else. Agnes then declares its own love for James. When he rebuffs the computer, Agnes breaks down.
So goes the plot of “From Agnes—With Love,” an episode of The Twilight Zone that aired in 1964. Minnie Waters Shorter ’73 watched it from her home in Rockville, MD. She was 12 years old and instantly in love—with computer programming.
“I guess it was kind of strange but I was like, ‘Oh, man, this is really cool,’”
says Shorter. A sci-fi fan, she was fascinated by how James wrote and fed notes to the computer, which printed out notes in response. She wanted to work with computers like that, sans jealous A.I.
She tried out a few careers after college, pausing to raise her first son. “This is when PCs were really starting to come to the forefront,” says Shorter. Itching to get back to work, she took a computer training class at the insurance company USF&G, which promptly hired her to work in management information systems. In 1999, the Social Security Administration recruited Shorter, who worked there until retirement. Over her career, she worked on all kinds of systems: financial, national transit, claims, HR, payroll, and more.
Retirement allowed for other pursuits. Shorter loves to travel, most recently to Iceland last summer. She likes that 100 percent of Goucher students study abroad and scholarships are available to cover costs. But in having conversations with alumnae friends, she began to think about all the little incidentals from traveling that end up costing a lot of money, even from just getting a passport. For students without many resources, “it can be quite daunting to get that or to have even a modest amount of spending money,” she says.
During their last reunion, she and fellow African American alumnae from the Class of 1973 had an idea. “Bessie Yvonne (Owens) Everett was the one who presented it to me, and that’s when we decided with some other folks to create the Imani Fund,” says Shorter.
Imani is Swahili for faith. Along with others, they decided to start an endowment for students from underserved and financially disadvantaged Maryland communities. According to Everett, “We had faith that these students, with help, could make significant contributions to the world.”
The fund is particularly meaningful for the college, which holds that learning global perspectives is essential to a 21st-century career. Shorter has given generously to the fund over the last several years.
For Shorter, every bit of help on a student’s path to self-discovery counts. And that path is lifelong: Shorter is now pursuing a doctorate in management, with a sub- specialty in information systems technology. “There’s no way I could have visualized my career when I was at Goucher because my career didn’t exist. What I found was that, with my education from Goucher, I was able to make my own career.”