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We are forever sustained by inspiration that comes in the form of family, friends, and faith. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the 2022 BEYA recipients of career achievement awards. Here’s what they said in their acceptance speeches at the BEYA Gala held this February.

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Adedeji B. Badiru, Ph.D., dean, graduate school of engineering and management, Air Force Institute of Technology

“This prestigious award is the result of years of support, inspiration, and motivation from all my coworkers. And a testament to my paying it forward. I fervently embrace Nelson Mandela’s quote that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. I’ve committed my career to youth development, mentoring in STEM education, to change the world. I take delight in the multiplier effects of my contributions. Those I have mentored have gone on to great things in society. I’ve supported public service programs for over three decades. My social responsibility activities also reach out to adults through my guidebooks on balancing home, work, and leisure. My lifelong commitment to public service led me to start the Association of Military Industrial Engineers in 2011, promoting and advancing educational programs’ efficiency effectiveness for government workforce development. Special thanks to my wife, who has stood by me for over 45 years. We’ve done it together, thank you.”

Commander Desmond Walker, prospective executive officer, USS Bainbridge, U.S. Navy

“In the summer of 1996, I visited family in Natchez, Mississippi, before shipping out to boot camp. My last stop was with my Uncle David. A Navy sailor himself, his words of encouragement carried intrinsic value that did not mature until several years later. His advice was simply never let the color of your skin be the reason you’re not successful. When I was commissioned in 2003, I realized he gave me responsibility and personal accountability. Representation was the mission, performance was the expectation. This award represents mission accomplished. Today, I celebrate. Tomorrow, it’s back to work. Keep grinding, thank you.”

Denise Russell Fleming, vice president and CIO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, The Boeing Company

“You must take chances in life. You can’t do ordinary things and expect extraordinary results. Fortunately, I grew up in a family that expected the extraordinary. This little Black girl on the southside of Jamaica Queens, New York, was told I could attend a top ten university, be a doctor, a TV news anchor, an engineer. My parents, aunts, and uncles encouraged my dreams and embedded a strong determination. As a people, we know about glass ceilings. We also know that if you are the one who shadows them you may get some cuts. Like many women of color, I have a few scars I wear proudly. Because they brought me here. I was blessed with mentors and role models; my husband and two boys who ultimately support me and loved ones who cheered me on. If you’re just starting out, find your village. Identify your gifts and step out on faith to become your best self. It’s amazing to be blessed, but transformative to be a blessing.”

Thomasina Russell Wright, program director, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII)

“In high school, I enjoyed math and science and didn’t know what an engineer was. I never dreamed about building nuclear-powered ships like aircraft carriers, and submarines. Fast forward to today, I can’t imagine any other journey. Throughout my career, I’ve accepted every obstacle as a challenge. And determination has been my driving force for breaking barriers and paving a way for others. I want to thank HII leaders for every opportunity you’ve given me. I want to thank my husband who’s here, and my family that’s back at home, that’s been very supportive throughout this entire journey. I stand before you not just as a role model for females and minorities but for my four daughters. I hope they see my achievements and they realize that nothing is impossible and strive for more. Thank you BEYA for the recognition and award.”

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