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The Legacy Awards are presented annually at the BEYA STEM Conference to honor individuals who have volunteered in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) community and have shown excellence in the STEM workforce. Previously, the Legacy Awards were named differently, but in 2016 they were renamed to honor BEYA’s legacy dating back to 1987.

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These awards celebrate the contributions of men and women who have won the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) since 1987. The Engineering Deans Breakfast at BEYA has been the place for special recognition honorees to receive Legacy Awards for over five years.

The Admiral Michelle J. Howard Legacy Award is named in honor of the first Black woman to command a U.S. Navy warship, earn promotions to the two-, three-, and four-star ranks, and former commander of United States Naval Forces Europe and vice chief of naval operations. The Legacy Awards recognize outstanding contributions to mentoring talent development, and excellence in the workforce.

Diversity is a crucial aspect of the United States Navy, where unity and strength are paramount. Ms. Sharon Parish, as the director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), has led the organization’s approach.

Her background as a child of deaf adults fuels her passion, driving initiatives that have significantly increased representation across the board.

Ms. Parish’s hands-on recruitment strategies, mainly from institutions serving people who are deaf or hard of hearing and minorities, have been groundbreaking. Her mentorship and leadership have ensured that NAVSEA mirrors the diverse fabric of America itself.

Ms. Parish’s work aligns with President Biden’s Executive Order on DEIA and underscores her adept understanding of equal employment policies and commitment to an inclusive workforce. Her brainchild, the “Supervisor and Workforce DEI Training Sessions,” has cultivated a culture of belonging.

In 2022, the Admiral Michelle J. Howard Legacy Award went to Reginald (Reggie) Key, a software engineering specialist at L3Harris Technologies, Inc., who is a pivotal cybersecurity software engineering team member.

In 2019, Christopher Belton, a lead test engineer at Newport News Shipbuilding, received the Admiral Michelle Howard Legacy Award.

Another winner of this award is Dr. Darryl A. Boyd, a research chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory, Department of the Navy. Boyd is an active member of various scientific organizations and advocates for community STEM outreach.

He regularly participates in volunteer STEM events all over the country and is a science instructor for Roots Public Charter School and STEM director at the Transformational Education Adventure (TEA) Center.

Ms. Parish’s exemplary work in the field of diversity and inclusion at NAVSEA has made a significant impact, and her leadership has ensured that NAVSEA reflects the diverse fabric of America.

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