22 November 1926(Birth)
24 October 2007(Death)
In 1948, Alberta Jeannette Charlotte Cassell was one of the first two African American women to graduate from Cornell University’s School of Architecture – her sister Martha Ann was the second. The daughter of prominent architect Albert Cassell, she worked with his firm and later had a successful career as an architectural engineer for the United States Navy.
The youngest of three children, Alberta was born in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Dunbar High School, she entered Cornell University’s School of Architecture. While a sophomore, Alberta participated in a four-student team that won a national contest for their design of a shopping center in Ithaca, New York. During that same semester, Alberta received an award for having the highest grade point average in the School of Architecture.
After graduating, Alberta worked with her father for two years before accepting a job as an architectural engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1951. From there, she became an engineering drafter with the Military Sea Lift Command. During this time, Alberta married Francis Butler, a Howard University graduate and mechanical engineer, and had two children. She was an active member of the Alpha Alpha Kappa chapter of the Association of Women Architects. Alberta’s career culminated with a position as a naval architect with the U.S. Naval Sea Company.
In 1982, Alberta was forced into retirement due to a disability. During retirement, Alberta passionately explored her interests in photography and writing children’s stories. Her book The Little White Butterflies was published posthumously in 2012. In the book’s dedication, her daughter Mira wrote: “In loving memory of my mom, who never failed to see the beauty in nature and in people.”
Spurlock Wilson, Dreck. "African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945," Routledge, 2004.