Nancy D. Fitzroy, a pioneer in heat-transfer and fluid-flow research for gas turbines, nuclear-reactor cores and other systems in a 37-year career at General Electric Co., could only access mens' rooms as an engineering student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the late 1940s.

The Troy, N.Y., university made amends on May 5, when it awarded her the engineering school's top honor, the Davies Medal for Engineering Achievement. She is the first woman to receive the school's honor.

Fitzroy also holds the distinction as the first woman to head a major engineering professional organization: She was elected president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1986. Current President Madiha El Mehelmy now is the group's fourth female president.

Fitzroy, author of 100 technical papers, holds three patents and was one of the first female helicopter pilots.

She became an Honorary Fellow of the U.K. Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1988 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1995.

"Nancy Fitzroy is a world-class engineer, a pioneer and a spirited leader," said RPI President Shirley A. Jackson. "Her technical contributions have been fundamental to a range of technologies."