A name like Dr. Loveday Conquest is bound to draw attention, as does the woman who carries it off with the aplomb of her signature beret, which she substituted during her recent visit home with a jaunty black fascinator.
The definition of a Renaissance woman, Conquest has won awards for the caliber of her teaching and research as a professor and associate dean in 39 years at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM).
Conquest comes from a family of educators. As a young University of Idaho graduate, her father, Jay Conquest, set off to teach at Hilo Intermediate after hearing that agricultural sciences teachers were needed in Hawai'i. At a local scholarship fundraising dance, he met Daisy Yamaguchi who was teaching at Hilo High. Jay and Daisy married soon after and founded the Hilo Commercial College in 1946, the only post-secondary educational institution then available on Hawai'i Island. The school catered to post-war students with families who needed updated workplace skills.
When Conquest was in fourth grade, her family relocated to the continental U.S., first to Pennsylvania, then to western Washington. Seven years later, they moved back to Hawai'i and Conquest was admitted to Punahou for her senior year, along with her younger sister, Lytha '70.
"I always think of my year at Punahou as a transformative year ... I had been in honors programs in mainland public school; that was in the early '60s. Punahou was the first school where it was not only OK for girls to be smart in what we now call STEM, but when you succeeded in doing well, students, and females especially, did not have to worry about hiding academic abilities."
Bibliophiles and Anglophiles also run in the family, and at several junctures, Conquest made important life and career choices – between math and English, theoretical and applied math, Hawai'i and Washington. Calculus teacher Francis "Miki" Bowers '45 was a powerful influence on Conquest, and so was English teacher Paul Nelson. She vividly remembers reading "Return of the Native" and Nelson's exhortation to "avoid the suburban trap," and most of all to "live the conscious life."
That conscious life led Conquest from pure math to the world of environmental science. "Being a math major, I figured it would be good for something, but I wasn't sure what. Before the fisheries job, I taught temporarily in the business school at the University of Washington. The math majors were not getting good advice, and that got me thinking." Now nationally recognized for her work in statistical science, her teaching strategy is to "begin with problems that grab people's attention, and go into statistical analysis from there and back into the theory."
After nearly four decades as a STEM educator, Conquest is retired and has been able to return full circle to her other loves, which are English literature and all things British. She is very involved with the Jane Austen Society of North America, producing a bimonthly article for its newsletter, and is quite an authority on the royal family. Her one year at Punahou helped feed her twin passions for math and English and to live what she calls a "nonlinear" life.
Motivated by a visit from a member of the Punahou advancement team, Conquest started to think about how she might help the Class of 1966 with its 50th reunion gift. She had previously established a charitable gift annuity in 2010 and was inspired to add another this year to celebrate her reunion. "Part of it is giving back and another part is giving forward – to say thank you for that transformative year and to ensure that others can have the same opportunity."