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Percy Pierre

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Information about Percy Pierre

Profile image of Percy Pierre

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Electrical Engineer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Gumbo
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
1/3/1939
Birth Location:
Welcome, Louisiana

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Electrical Engineer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Gumbo
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
1/3/1939
Birth Location:
Welcome
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Biography

Electrical engineer Percy A. Pierre was born on January 1, 1939 in Welcome, Louisiana to Rosa Villavaso and Percy John Pierre. Pierre graduated from St. Augustine High School in New Orleans in 1957. Reverend Matthew O’Rourke, the school’s founding principal and president, served as one of Pierre’s mentors. It was in his senior year of high school that Pierre first decided to enter the field of engineering. Pierre received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1961. He stayed at the University and received his M.S. degree in 1963. Pierre went on to receive his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from John Hopkins University in 1967. He is the first African American in the country to earn a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering.

After graduation, Pierre began a series of successful posts in government and higher education. In 1969, Pierre was selected to serve as a White House Fellow and Deputy to the Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs. In 1971, he joined the faculty of Howard University as Dean of the School of Engineering. As dean, Pierre was instrumental in the founding of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME). In 1977, he left Howard University to serve as Assistant Secretary to the United States Army for Research, Development, and Acquisition, where he managed a $12 billion budget. Pierre started his own consulting business, Percy A. and Associates in 1981. He returned to academia in 1983, serving as President of Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) University, and later as Honeywell Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Pierre came to Michigan State University in 1990 as Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. In 1995, he became a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Pierre has taught courses and participated in research in the areas of signals and systems, random processes, and signal detection and estimation. He believes his greatest achievement in his field to be the exploration of linear functions and their properties. In addition to his research, Pierre has also created numerous programs to increase the financial support and mentoring opportunities available for minority graduate engineering students; most notably creating the Sloan Engineering Program in 1998. Pierre has served on many boards, including the National Security Advisory Board and the Defense Science Board. He was honored with the Founders Award from NACME in 2004 in celebration of the organization’s thirtieth anniversary. He also received the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008. Pierre is married to Olga A. Markham and they have two grown daughters, Kristin Clare and Allison Celeste.

Percy A. Pierre was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 13, 2012.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Percy Pierre's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre talks about his mother and his maternal grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Percy Pierre talks about the benevolent societies established by freed slaves in Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Percy Pierre talks about the Reconstruction Era in Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre talks about his father's family in Freetown, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre talks about his father's education and carpentry skills
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre describes his family's life in Gulfport, Mississippi
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Percy Pierre describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Percy Pierre talks about his family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Percy Pierre describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Percy Pierre describes his childhood neighborhood and house in New Orleans
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Percy Pierre describes the sights and sounds and smells of growing up
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Percy Pierre describes his experience in school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Percy Pierre describes his interests in science, math and basketball
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre tells the story of Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre talks about learning problem-solving skills
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre talks about watching television as a teenager in the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre talks about his mother teaching him to read
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Percy Pierre describes his experience and mentors in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Percy Pierre talks about his interest in basketball and music in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Percy Pierre talks about preparing to enroll in college
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Percy Pierre describes his decision to attend the University of Notre Dame
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre describes his experience at the University of Notre Dame
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre describes his studies and his mentors at the University of Notre Dame
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre talks about religion and science
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre describes his interest in signal processing as a master's student
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Percy Pierre describes his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Johns Hopkins University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Percy Pierre talks about the events in the Civil Rights Movement and politics in the 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Percy Pierre talks about his Ph.D. advisors and dissertation research at Johns Hopkins University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Percy Pierre talks about being the only African American in his graduate program
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre talks about becoming the first engineering postdoctoral trainee at the University of Michigan
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre describes his decision to join the Rand Corporation in 1968
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre describes his experience at Rand Corporation
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre describes his experience as a White House fellow in 1969
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Percy Pierre describes how he became the dean of engineering at Howard University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Percy Pierre describes his contributions as the dean of engineering at Howard University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Percy Pierre talks about affirmative action and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME)
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Percy Pierre describes his impact on minority engineering education
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre describes his experience at the Pentagon as the assistant secretary for research and development
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre describes his experience in consulting and as president of Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre describes his experience at Michigan State University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Percy Pierre reflects upon his career
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Percy Pierre describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Percy Pierre talks about his wife and daughters
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Percy Pierre talks about how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Percy Pierre describes his photographs