Only One Black Among the 65 New Members of the National Academy of Engineering

In common with many honorary societies in the United States, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has almost no black members. The NAE states that it has no data on the race of its 2,246 members. Yet from information provided by various members, JBHE has determined that there are about 15 blacks among the society’s fellows.

This year the NAE elected 65 new members to the society. Once again the academy did not disclose the race of its new members. But a detailed search of the membership list by JBHE found that only one of the new members is black.

The new African-American member of the National Academy of Engineering is Percy A. Pierre. Today, Pierre is vice president and professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University. A native of St. James Parish, Louisiana, Pierre holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame. In 1967 he earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. He is generally recognized as the first African American to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering.

After serving as a White House fellow during the Nixon administration, in 1971 Pierre joined the faculty of Howard University, serving as dean of the College of Engineering. In the Carter administration, Pierre served as assistant secretary of the Army for research, development, and regulation.

Later, Pierre served six years as president of Prairie View A&M University, a historically black educational institution in Texas. He joined the faculty at Michigan State University in 1990. Dr. Pierre is now 70 years old.