In 1983, Dr. Sally Ride proved that the sky is not, in fact, the limit by being the first American woman to go to space. Now, Brandeis graduate Elana Hagler ’02 has designed a coin to commemorate Ride’s achievements as part of the American Women Quarters Program, a project of the U.S. Mint. The quarter featuring Ride is one of five quarters featuring notable American women of all different backgrounds. The other coins will feature Maya Angelou, Anna May Wong, Wilma Mankiller, and Nina Otero-Warren, and the project will roll out over four years.

While designing the coin, Hagler, an Artistic Infusion Program Designer at the U.S. Mint, conducted extensive research into Ride’s life. She watched footage of Ride both when Ride was an astronaut and when she grew older. She told the Jerusalem Post that she did this research “with the goal of getting an idea of what kind of an image would both honor what she valued and tell an essential story about her on this tiny little canvas.” In 1998, through Scholastic Corporation publishing, students were able to submit questions to Ride. One student asked what she would do to pass the time when not working. Ultimately, Hagler drew inspiration from Ride’s answer to the student’s question: “When I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.” Hagler’s design features a portrait of Ride next to a space shuttle window with the Earth visible below.

Hagler began making art at her grandfather’s dental practice, where she molded wax to create tiny sculptures. As she got older, she was commissioned by classmates and friends to decorate notebook covers for 25 cents each. 

At Brandeis, Hagler got her B.A. in Studio Art and Psychology and explored her passion for art while studying abroad in Montecastello di Vibio, Italy, per her bio on the U.S. Mint website. After graduating, she continued her studies in Jerusalem before earning an M.F.A. from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Currently, she is an assistant professor of Art at Alabama State University. 

Ride made history as the first woman in space and now makes history again as the first openly queer person to appear on U.S. currency. Hagler also makes history as the first Israeli-born artist to design coins for the U.S. Mint and ensures the preservation of Ride’s legacy in the form of a beautiful silver quarter.