US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was the keynote speaker at the 37th annual BEYA gala held Saturday, February 11. During his speech at the final event of the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) STEM Conference, Secretary Austin paid glowing tribute to the trailblazing achievements of the first African American man in space, Guion Bluford, Jr.
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin speaks from the podium at the BEYA gala held during the 37th annual BEYA STEM Conference, February 9-11.
Representatives from the public and private sectors recognized significant achievements and technological advancements under the BEYA conference theme: Becoming Everything You Are.
Austin noted that Bluford was honored as Black Engineer of the Year three years after this groundbreaking achievement. Bluford made history on August 30, 1983, when he became the first African American in space, launching into low Earth orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. He subsequently flew aboard three additional shuttle missions, logging a total of 688 hours in space.
Bluford was honored as the Black Engineer of the Year at the 1991 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) conference.
Secretary Austin acknowledged the contributions made by individuals like Bluford and their significance in promoting diversity and breaking down barriers in STEM. “We cannot afford to leave any talent behind, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity,” he said.
The Secretary also spoke about current STEM developments, highlighting the importance of emerging technologies in shaping the future. He stressed the need for continued investment in STEM education and research, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and diversity in driving innovation and progress.
NASA Astronaut Guy Bluford in space. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
The three-day conference, which was held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, concluded with several awards presented at Saturday’s gala. The winners included the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year and digital twin pioneer Dr. Colin Parris.
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin shakes hands with the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year, Dr. Colin Parris, senior vice president and chief technology officer, GE Digital, at the BEYA gala held during the 37th annual BEYA STEM Conference, Feb. 9-11.
L-R: 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Theodore (Ted) Colbert III, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, and Mrs. Colbert; 2014 Black Engineer of the Year Stephanie C. Hill, executive vice president of Rotary and Mission Systems for Lockheed Martin Corporation; 2022 Women of Color Technologist of the Year Valerie Sheares Ashby, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC);
Mrs. Charlene D. Austin, wife of Lloyd J. Austin III; Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. Not shown is Tyrone Taborn, publisher of US Black Engineer magazine and chairman of the BEYA Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Conference.