Commander Royce James is a professor in the Coast Guard Academy’s Physics Section. He also serves as a Science Equity Officer and Advisor. James is currently the longest tenured African American faculty member on campus, and a long-standing board member of The Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut, which provides hands-on STEM programs and service learning.
“Commander Royce James, or as his students and cadets know him ‘Dr. Jay’ joined the Coast Guard through the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative,” said Vice Admiral Michael F. McAllister, presenter of the Professional Achievement in Government Award. The CSPI is open to students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges.
“Over the past 15 years, Royce has positively impacted thousands of cadets,” McAllister said. “He used his Ph.D. research to establish an internationally renowned plasma physics laboratory for Coast Guard Academy-funded research and is the director of the Science Partnership and Innovation, which inspired local partnerships for 45 students and faculty.
“Because of his efforts, the Coast Guard has had an amazing 35 percent increase in external research support and 43 percent increase in project participation,” said McAllister who serves as deputy commandant for mission support.
James’ academic journey started with a bachelor’s degree in physics with minors in music and mathematics from New Mexico State University. He went on to earn a master’s in applied physics from Columbia University and a doctorate in plasma physics from Stevenson Institute of Technology. James joined the Coast Guard after service in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a full-time, residential service program for people ages 18-24.
“None of us get here by ourselves,” James said in his acceptance speech. “Eldest of eight, Mom was a teacher to her siblings at home and to her brother, old enough to escort her to school. She became a biology teacher and college administrator. He was one of the brave (North Carolina) A&T four that rekindled civil rights on February 1st, 1960 at the Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter. They bring me freedom songs of bystander interventions and cultural competence.
“I was born on Andrews Air Force Base on Memorial Day, the son of a newly-retired, bronze star Korea and Vietnam Army Intelligence Chief Warrant Officer II,” the commander continued. “Dad won his hardest fight as an eight-year sober recovering alcoholic. When I was 16, my beloved father, after that impossible fight, died. From him, I’m imbued service to my nation, to my family, to each of you, in grit, to maintain and to keep moving forward,” James concluded to thunderous applause.