1986: Dr. Towns

1986: Dr. Kathryn Towns Earned First Service to Women Award

Dr. Kathryn Towns, known for her dedication to advocating for the rights of women, won the first Service to Women Award from the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. This was just one of many awards Towns earned in her lifetime as an educator and women’s advocate. Pictured here with Dr. Towns and her Service to Women Award is Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh and his wife, Ginny.

In her 27 years with Capitol Campus, from 1968 to 1995, Dr. Towns was a professor of educational psychology and the associate dean for research, graduate studies, and continuing education. She was also instrumental in creating the women’s studies minor and the community psychology programs.


Dr. Towns (then Dr. Starkey) was one of 600 attendees at the first National Women’s Studies Association convention in San Francisco on January 13 – 16, 1977. The association formed as a response to the growth of women’s studies programs and of women’s studies content in traditional disciplines in college courses across the nation. She was a likely delegate for the convention because in the year prior, 1976, she chaired a regional committee in collaboration with HACC and the Women’s Center to investigate a need for a women’s resource center in central PA.

Earlier, in 1973, Towns facilitated the creation of the Child Development Center at Capitol Campus. She conducted the initial survey of families to develop profiles and examine the need for the center. Dr. Towns also negotiated with the state and county officials for its establishment.

Dr. Towns coordinated the first Global Women’s Forum on campus 1980 that gathered women throughout Pennsylvania to talk with others with similar interests and share concerns, lifestyles, and personal priorities.

The National Women’s Studies Association selected Towns as a participant to the first International Conference on Research and Teaching Related to Women at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University in Montreal, July 26 – August 4, 1982 during which she presented a paper and co-facilitated a session on establishing an international network of female professionals.

Outside of academia, Dr. Towns founded PROBE (Potential Reentry Opportunities in Business and Education), a non-profit career counseling service for single parents, homemakers, and pregnant teens.

Dr. Towns was a well-respected professor during her tenure at Capitol Campus. Students called her “an amazing teacher” and said “she’s the most brilliant professor I’ve ever had. And a fine teacher.”

Dr. Kathryn Towns’ legacy lives on through the annual Kathryn Towns Award, administered by the Penn State Harrisburg Commission for Women. The award recognizes Penn State Harrisburg students, alumni, staff, or faculty members who have demonstrated commitment to heightening the awareness of issues and concerns having an impact on women at the college.


  • B.S. Mathematics, Miami University
  • M.Ed. and Ph.D. Educational Psychology, Penn State University

Prior Roles

  • Mathematician on the Manhattan Project
  • Meteorologist in the WAVES
  • High school mathematics teacher for nearly 12 years
  • Graduate assistant and instructor in the Department of Educational Psychology at University Park

Other Awards

  • Pennsylvania Woman of the Year Award
  • Dr. James A. Jordan, Jr. Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence
  • Artist for Life Award from the International Women’s Writing Guild
  • National Science Foundation Fellowship.

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