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During World War II, Olivia J. Hooker was the first African American female admitted into the United States Coast Guard in February 1945.

Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1915, Olivia was one of five children.  In 1937, she graduated from Ohio State University and went on to teach at an elementary school in Columbus, Ohio.

A decade later, she earned a master’s degree in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University, followed by a doctorate from the University of Rochester in 1961.

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker died at home in White Plains, New York on Nov. 21.  She was 103 years old. A Fordham psychology professor emerita, Hooker was a prominent researcher in school‪ ‎psychology‬.

“I remember the first time I saw her,” said Tyrone Taborn, Career Communications Group (CCG) CEO and co-founder of the annual BEYA STEM Conference. “She and her sister were standing outside their house in the darkest of night. They had locked themselves out and called my cousin Doris Nicholson for help. Doris and I drove over. She had me crawl into a small window because they were locked out.”

Taborn says at the time he didn’t know she was a survivor of the‪ ‎Tulsa Race Riots‬ of 1921 or a US Coast Guard veteran. “They were my cousin Doris’ childhood friends who I would see on breaks from Cornell University. She was a wonderfully smart woman,” Taborn said.

“What a heartwarming story,” said retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon, who is photographed with Coast Guard officers at the funeral for Dr. Hooker in White Plains, New York, Dec. 5.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier)

In April,  a retired educator who spent more than 40 years at Norfolk State University, passed away.  Dr. Sandra J. DeLoatch served as a mathematics instructor, founding chair of the Computer science department, dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology and acting university president.

“She last served as provost and vice president for academic affairs,” wrote Veronica Nelson, executive director of Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering (AMIE). In an attached message Norfolk State University interim president Melvin Stith praised Dr. DeLoatch’s contributions to the science, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields.

“She achieved many “firsts” during her career including serving as the Principal Investigator for one of the first two research contracts ever awarded to an HBCU by the National Security Agency. Her pioneering efforts in information assurance and computer science laid the groundwork for NSU’s emerging prowess and success in Cybersecurity,” Dr. Stith said.

BEYA winner and retired Army General Johnnie E. Wilson lost his daughter-in-law in May.  She died aged 42 on Memorial Day weekend.

“Our daughter-in-law passed away after a 13-year battle with cancer,” Gen. Wilson wrote in an email. “She battled every day without one complaint in spite of the odds and dire prognosis.”

The four-star general of the United States Army was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Conference. He is a founding father of the Stars and Stripes Dinner and Mentoring Program, an integral part of the BEYA STEM Conference. Expressing sympathy to the family, Tyrone Taborn, producer of the BEYA STEM Conference, wrote:

“Jean and I are heartbroken over this. May you and your family find some comfort in God’s grace. As we observe Memorial Day, Teisha has shown us the life of a true warrior.”

Earlier in the year, Career Communications Group (CCG) paid tribute to Hayward Henderson.  A special advisor to CCG’s CEO Tyrone Taborn, Henderson passed away on March 29. Over his long career in media sales, new business development, and advertising, he worked for The International Herald Tribune Online, The New York Times, PitchBook, Inc., Investis Inc., Asset TV U.S., and Strategic Insight.

Historically black college and university (HBCU) alumni we lost included Howard University grad Togo D. West, who died at 75.  A two-time honoree of  US Black Engineer magazine’s HBCU Distinguished Alumni Hall of fame,  West set a high standard of excellence in public service, engineering, and the law.

Rudy Horne, a math rock star, who was remembered at the 2018 Mathfest of the Mathematical Association of America, was a Morehouse College mathematician, who gave so much to the field of mathematics.

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