What do you get from the White House after 50 years in American education?
President Barack Obama’s letter to Dr. Eugene M. DeLoatch celebrated a significant milestone.
The personalized message that came in a special envelope recognized the engineering icon as the “best of the best” in the field of engineering.
DeLoatch is the founding dean of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. (March 8, 1911 – March 19, 1984) was a civil rights activist and was the chief lobbyist for the NAACP for nearly 30 years.
Prior to beginning his service at Morgan in 1984, Dr. DeLoatch spent 24 years with Howard University in Washington, D.C.
His last assignment there was as chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering, a position he held for nine years.
Dean DeLoatch is a past president of the American Society of Engineering Education, (ASEE). At the time of his election to the presidency of ASEE in 2002, he became the first African American to hold that position in its history.
Morgan State’s University Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering has earned an outstanding reputation for academic excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate students since its inception in 1984.
Recently, USBE Online’s career editor spoke to Dr. DeLoatch about his more than 50-year career in engineering education. Here are the excerpts.
I can’t think of a better thing I could have done, from the time I started as an instructor in engineering at Howard University. It couldn’t have been a better thing to do because it did start my professional career.
It was about wanting to expose as many young people to a field little known, as I see it, in the African-American community –a very critical field for the progress of this nation.
I have no regrets taking the route of higher education and engineering as a public matter, and doing it in an environment, where I could impact the thought processes and the decisions to become an engineer in the historically Black colleges and universities in our country.
There are lots of other things I could have done or ended up doing. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know what it would turn out to be, but I don’t think I would have got this kind of impact.
When I left school, less than one-half of one percent of all the engineers in the country was African American. It was an area where we had little knowledge of, and participation in, when I graduated with my first engineering degree.
It had nothing to do with capability, but the way engineering grew.
So I had an opportunity to expose others to something of value.
Engineering, over the last 50 years certainly, and over the last 30 years, and my time as a dean, has had such a tremendous impact on the lives of people around the world.
Look at the feats of engineering. Look at transport–the ability to get from one place to another quickly. The movement to personalizing devices and communication, from the time we were able to have personal access to computers, and that’s only in the 1980s.
Move back to the advent of computers to today’s personal, carry around smartphones that have more power than some of the things we had access to in the late 1970s. That’s a relatively short period of time, thirty years, and twenty-five years.
So when you look at that, from Morse code and the telegraph to now, that movement is telling me that the next twenty-five to 50 years will be wow!
‘Use of people’
We’re already talking about the use of people in things we had people doing before. The factory worker is almost a thing of the past.
What will we do with this whole business of artificial intelligence (AI) and drone type, robotic type of things, as we are moving towards driverless vehicles?
I tell you, the next twenty-five to 50 years is going to be amazing!
‘Tips for the road ahead’
1. People will have to be more globally in tune.
We’ll have to understand and appreciate not just our similarities, but also our differences. If we don’t do that, if we can’t accommodate each other, then it’s going to be very challenging.
2. We’ll have to morph.
Be more like engineers in our thinking. Have more abilities, more languages, and more knowledge of other cultures. I see engineering as a merging together and more balancing of the cultures.
3. We’ll go extraterrestrial.
We’ll have to expand to other habitats. This planet will not be able to hold us as we’ve come to know this planet. I see space travel very strongly in 50 years.
It’s trying to look back and go forward; find ways to grow, expand and communicate in the universe, because we cannot have a lack of appreciation for the rights of others.
4. We’re going to have to coexist.
With Man, coexist with the environment, and societies are going to have to be network-focused systems. Instead of growing apart, come together.
Between technology and all this knowledge of things we were talking about, nations rising and people, how do we cope with all that as a world?
I think the United States and engineers will take a greater role and more people will trend in the direction of the knowledge base and artificial intelligence we have created to minimize attacks, but maximize the best of how we project forward if we are to survive.
Education will be more personalized and people will be able to access the knowledge base much more, not just in university.