Linda Capano Dolan
Bachelor of Science in physics, 1976; Master of Business Administration, 1986 | Lawyer, nuclear safety expert, Orlando, Fla.
The Graduate | Dolan was the first woman to graduate from Xavier with a degree in physics. She waffled between pursuing law or science, but department of physics chairman Ray Miller told her, “Try it. You’ll like it.” She did.
All in the Family | “It was like having 20 brothers,” she says. “There were no other women in the program. I just kind of fit right in. They were very helpful, and I was not treated differently. I was the first woman graduate, and I was very proud of it.”
Reactionary | Fascinated by nuclear physics, she earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cincinnati, which led to a job with General Electric’s nuclear energy group in San Jose, Calif. Longing for home, she returned to Cincinnati and became a nuclear safety engineer at the Fernald uranium processing facility, making sure the depleted uranium stayed safely secured. In short: “Keep one container away from another.”
Continuing Ed | After moving back home, she returned to Xavier and earned her M.B.A.
Nightmare | In 1986, the U.S. Department of Energy fired the facility’s contractor, and what was a good job became a nightmare. “Nothing we ever did was right. The EPA was always complaining, the DOE was always complaining. We’d think we were getting it right and the DOE would be satisfied, and then something would happen in another part of the plant and it would be our fault. After a couple years of that, I decided to leave.”
No Regrets | Dolan took her family and skills to Oak Ridge, Tenn., to work as a safety analyst for the government. Most of her work is still classified.
Everything Disney | Her husband landed a job in Orlando, Fla., where she was hired at a government missile production plant. Unhappy with that, she tapped into the legal yearnings she’d felt in high school and decided, at 46, to enroll at the University of Florida law school—two hours away.
Starting Over | “I would drive at 5:00 a.m. from Orlando to Gainesville and drive home at the end of the day. I wound up having my family intact, though I didn’t make honors.”
The Rest of the Story | She was hired by an Orlando law firm but misses government and environmental work and hints she may take her new skills back to the federal sector. “I’ve learned that you never have to stay grounded in any one thing if you don’t want to. You’re never too old to change.”