Debra McCarty, Engr '79, is the first woman to lead Philadelphia Water Department

Debra McCarty, head of the Philadelphia Water Department

Image credit: Abby Sullivan

Growing up, Debra McCarty, Engr '79, always knew she'd attend Johns Hopkins. "And my parents never told me, 'By the way, they don't accept women right now,'" she says. "So I just didn't know that was not an option at the time."

McCarty, who graduated from one of the university's first coed undergraduate classes, was recently appointed the first woman to lead the Philadelphia Water Department. She's quick to point out that while it's an honor to be the first woman, the real joy comes from being recognized for her credentials. "I want it because I'm qualified," she says. "And I think I am." McCarty's schedule is packed with meetings to do everything from requesting water rate increases to ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. "We always have to be looking to the future," she says. "I feel a huge responsibility to make sure we can continue the legacy of passing on a healthy, robust utility to our successors."

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