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Wesley Harris

Aerospace engineer Wesley L. Harris was born in Richmond, Virginia on October 29, 1 941. His parents, William Harris and Rosa Harris, worked in Richmond’s tobacco factories. As a child, Harris was intrigued by airplanes and learned to build different models. In the fourth grade, he won an essay contest about career goals with a paper on how he wanted to become a test pilot. After receiving his B.S. degree with honors in aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia in 1964, Harris enrolled at Princeton University and graduated from there with his M.S. degree in aerospace and mechanical sciences in 1966 and his Ph.D. degree in aerospace and mechanical sciences 1968.

After completing his Ph.D. at Princeton, Harris taught at the University of Virginia and at Southern University before joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972 where he served as a professor of aeronautics and astronautics. He established MIT’s first Office of Minority Education in 1975 in order to help retain minority students and improve their performance. In 1985, Harris was appointed Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut; and from 1990 to 1995, he served as vice president and chief administrative officer at the University of Tennessee Space Institute and then as associate administrator for aeronautics NASA. In 2003, Harris was named head of the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT in 2003.

Harris’ many honors and achievements include serving as chair and member of various boards and committees of the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Science Board, and several state governments. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Helicopter Society. The National Academy of Engineering elected Harris as a Fellow for contributions to understanding of helicopter rotor noise, for encouragement of minorities in engineering, and for service to the aeronautical industry.

Wesley L. Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.004

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2013

Last Name

Harris

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Princeton University

University of Virginia

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Wesley

Birth City, State, Country

Richmond

HM ID

HAR38

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

The Greatest Gift Is To Give.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

10/29/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak (Rib Eye)

Short Description

Aerospace engineer Wesley Harris (1941 - ) was head of the department of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. He was also elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to the understanding of helicopter rotor noise, for encouragement of minorities in engineering and for service to the aeronautical industry.

Employment

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

UTSI

University of Connecticut

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

University of Virginia

Southern University

Harris Analytics and Planning, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Wesley Harris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris talks about the occupations of his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about his mother and his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his father's restaurant

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about his twin brother William Harris pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris talks about his twin brother William Harris pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes walking through the white district to get to school as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris talks about his mentors in school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about his high school science fair project

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his aspiration as a fourth grader to be a test pilot

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about the University of Virginia-pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris describes his time at the University of Virginia-pt 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about his mentors at the University of Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes the group of African American students at the University of Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Virginia pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Virginia pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about the 1963 March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes the impact of the U.S. space program on his education

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris describes his decision to attend Princeton University for graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about his mentor at Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about anti-Semitism in Ivy League schools

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his doctoral research

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris describes how he was recruited by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris describes the findings of his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his time at Southern University pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about his time at Southern University pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris explains why he left Southern University pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris explains why he left Southern University pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about his time as a professor at the University of Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris talks about his children and his first wife

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris describes being a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris describes his research on helicopter rotor acoustics

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris describes his work on coastal ocean radar with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about receiving the Irwin Sizer Award

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes his time at the University of Connecticut

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his time at the University of Tennessee Space Institute

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about the University of Tennessee Space Institute

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris describes being an associate administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes being an associate administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris reflects on his work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris describes why he left the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about the Lean Aerospace Initiative and Lean Sustainment Initiative

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about becoming a member of the National Academy of Engineering

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris describes his time at Arizona State University

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about the aeronautics and astronautics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris talks about Leon Trilling

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris describes the James Shirley incident at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about the flight tests of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris provides his predictions on the direction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris talks about STEM education in the United States

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about his research on the fluid dynamics of blood flow pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his research on the fluid dynamics of blood flow pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris reflects on his life

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris reflects on his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris talks about his involvement in football during high school pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris talks about his involvement in football during high school pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Wesley Harris talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Wesley Harris talks about his high school science fair project
Wesley Harris reflects on his work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Transcript
You were talking about this cloud chamber in the break, but how did you build that? I mean you say kids ask you today, how did you do it without the internet, right?$$Right. So the idea was that you wanted to observe, in my case, the trajectory of alpha particles and so how do you do that? Alpha particles are fairly large and high energy so if you have a, an environment where they can collide and you visibly can see the collision or the results of the collision then you could in fact track them. So if you had in those days these old radioactive Rayon watches, you could clip off a piece of the dial and that would serve as your alpha particle. To get the condensement atmosphere you build a box that was insulated, put in that box dry ice, okay, and on top you would put a damp wet cloth which when it interacts with the dry ice would form a cloud. And then you look at the, look through the top, alpha particles projecting through the cloud coming down, you see the collisions and you could track it. So the idea was to generate the correct environment. And the cloud chamber is what we called it in those days, still call it a cloud chamber. But you had to build a box, put ice in there, dry ice, not water ice but it had to be very cold and get the condensation, get the alpha particles, there it was. So, but Eloise Bose Washington, who is this woman, who is she, why do I remember her name so distinctly, why do I remember her even more so than Edmonds and Street and Mrs. Hartley and even Judon? Eloise Bose Washington one of the rare black women that went north in the 40s [1940s] to the University of Pennsylvania [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] to earn a masters degree in physics, you may ask well why in the hell would a black woman go north in the 40s [1940s] for a masters degree in physics and come back to the south? What could possibly be on her mind? What was she going to do? What job was open to her? None, other than the classroom, but she had a degree in physics. So the blessing was that I was one of her students. Not only was she a good teacher but she had the foundation. She knew physics okay, and therein lies the success. Therein lies the opportunity. Therein lies the greatest gift, all right, that Eloise Bose Washington was there or I was there when she was, let's put it that way, a tremendous spirit, a short woman, rather wide, rather big, again the tough love. "Wesley, you will go to the University of Virginia, okay?" And she said that because she never forgave herself for the third place finish at the University of Virginia. We had won first in the black community, the black competition and then she said "Wesley, we'll go to University of Virginia [Charlottesville, Virginia] with the cloud chamber and we finished third and she always thought she was the reason for it.$$Hmm.$$Yeah, she did. She--so I said "Yes, Ms. Washington, I will go. But tell me why do you want me to go?" She said, "Two reasons." She says, "Wesley, you are black and there's no way those white folks up there would ever misinterpret who you are whenever they see you." Second, she says, "You will be successful and that's very important to us that you succeed at the University of Virginia." Okay.$$So this is, I just want to go back to that for a second cause she's saying something really significant here because it's often said when someone, some African American succeeds that it's because he's part white or something, you know, he's a lighter guy and that sort of thing.$$Right.$$So she's actually saying, she's focusing on your color?$$Yeah.$$She's saying--$$Yeah.$$--you're the perfect person to--$$Yes, yes.$$--you'll really shake things up to let people know what our capacity is cause you're unmistakably--$$Right, yeah that was a part of her calculation, make no doubt about it, yes, right.$$Okay.$$Because in her generation and also in mine--$$[BRIEF INTERRUPTION]$$Okay, all right. So--$$Yeah, so Eloise Washington did want to make that point that it was about demonstrating scholarship by, for and about black folks in a way that's unmistakable, that it is of this, it is of black folks. And that was something that she wanted me to understand that that's the--remember now just a rising senior in high school and she made that point very, very clear, "You are black and they will not misinterpret that and you will be successful."$$Okay.$$So that's Eloise Bose Washington.$While at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], you were elected a fellow of the American Helicopter Society?$$Yes, oh yes. Yes, that's--okay, so the rotorcraft community obviously since the work I did here at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts] in main rotor acoustics has always been a part of my aero portfolio. In a lot of ways, rotorcraft was a stepchild. Most of NASA's effort was focused on fixed wing aircraft. The U.S. Military, especially the U.S. Army has always needed better, more efficient helicopters. So working with a man named George Stingley, we developed a joint program involving NASA and DOD [Department of Defense], three-headed program after-anyway, involving the rotorcraft industry to share, to develop and share common technology. And that, no one had done that before to bring those four, those three players, NASA, the rotorcraft industry and the U.S. Army together to solve common research problems related to rotorcraft where NASA put in money, DOD, U.S. Army put in money and the rotorcraft industry put in money. So that was bringing together those three stakeholders in a way to find a common solution to common problems and that's, was, I guess enough for the Helicopter Society to say, "Make this guy a fellow."$$Okay, okay. And also you were, you received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. I guess be-- is that just before you left?$$Yeah.$$Okay.$$I think those things just, you just breathe long enough you get them. I, I attach no significance to those things at all.$$Okay. So when you look back at your stint at NASA, what are you the most proud of?$$High-speed civil transport, that technology, fascinating stuff, fascinating stuff.$$Okay, okay. Now--$$There's something else too.$$Okay.$$Most Americans know of the Russia-U.S. Space Treaty. At the same time that was developed there was a treaty or an agreement on aeronautics okay? So a group of us went to Moscow [Russia] several times to develop the document that Chernomyrdin [Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin] on the Russian side and Vice President [Al] Gore on the U.S. side signed, so-called agreement in aeronautics, a similar one in space, okay?$$Okay, so this is signed by Al Gore the vice president?$$Right and the vice premier Chernomyrdin of, for Russia.$$Okay.$$Okay, so I led that delegation. A member of that delegation was Woodrow Whitlow and many others as well, but that was an interesting, exciting time, couldn't leave the hotels at night. We were certain our bags were always searched when we left, riots on the Moscow subway. In the early 90s [1990]s, they just had collapsed the Soviet Union so you saw abject poverty in Russia, I mean unbelievable poverty, buildings with holes in them, government buildings, no toilets, no heat in the winter.$$Yeah, that's really critical in Russia.$$Oh goodness, yes. We were in meetings all day with overcoats on and gloves.$$In a government facility?$$Yeah, this is (Saugi?) [ph.], that's--this was their corresponding, this was their facility corresponding to our Tullahoma [Tennessee]. We have AEDC, the Arnold Engineering Development Center, the world's largest aerospace test facility, they had something called (Saugi?), comparable with no heat, holes in the walls, grass never cut.$$Yeah.$$That was Russia in the early 90s [1990s]. Not like that now but they had a really down period man. We were told to do this by the way, to develop this agreement not by NASA but by the State Department because they didn't want the Russian scientists to find their way to Iran or North Korea or some other place that would cause trouble later.

James Johnson, Jr.

Civil engineer and education administrator James H. Johnson, Jr. was born on May 27, 1947 to parents, James and Arline in Annapolis, Maryland. He earned his B.S. degree in civil engineering from Howard University. He then attended the University of Illinois, where he received his M.S. degree in sanitary engineering in 1970. Johnson worked as a consultant and as an engineer at Engineering Science before continuing his education at the University of Delaware. He received his Ph.D. degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1982.

Following the completion of his graduate studies, Johnson was offered a position on the faculty of his alma mater, Howard University. Johnson’s research focused on the treatment of hazardous compounds, contaminated soil including explosive waste, and environmental policy. He became chair of the Howard University Department of Civil Engineering in 1982. From 1989 until 2002, Johnson served as associate director of the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic Hazardous Substance Research Center. In 1996, he was appointed dean of Howard University’s College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences and in 2005 he was named the Samuel P. Massie Professor of Civil Engineering. Four years later, Johnson became professor emeritus of civil engineering at Howard University. In 2010, he was appointed chair of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. Johnson was the first African American to chair this independent committee for the Agency. He has also served as chair of the U.S. EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors. In 2012, Johnson was appointed director of EPA's National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) within the Office of Research and Development. Johnson has co-edited two books, contributed to three more, and he has published over 60 academic papers.

Johnson is a diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and in 2005, he received the National Society of Black Engineers Lifetime Achievement Award in Academia. He has also been recognized with the 2008 Water Environment Federation Gordon Maskew Fair Distinguished Educator Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award by National Society of Black Engineers (DC Chapter) in 2009. He is a member of the Water Environment Federation, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Association of Environmental Engineers and Science Professors and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.

James H. Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 15, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.139

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/15/2012

Last Name

Johnson

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

"Jim" H.

Schools

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

University of Delaware

Howard University

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Annapolis

HM ID

JOH40

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches, Golfing

Favorite Quote

To him or her that is given much, much is expected.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

5/27/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Civil engineer and education administrator James Johnson, Jr. (1947 - ) is the former dean of Howard University’s College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences, and the first African American chair of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT).

Employment

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Howard University

Engineering Science, Inc. (Parsons)

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Johnson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Johnson talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Johnson talks about the history of Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Johnson talks about his family's history in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Johnson talks about his mother's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Johnson talks about his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Johnson talks about his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Johnson talks about his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Johnson talks about his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Johnson talks about how his interest in civil engineering developed

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Johnson talks about Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination and the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Johnson talks about his experience at Bates High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Johnson recalls President Lyndon B. Johnson's visit to Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Johnson talks about civil engineering

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Johnson talks about his mentors at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Johnson talks about his studies at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Johnson talks about his decision to attend University of Illinois for graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Johnson talks about his experience working at Engineering Science and the 1972 Watergate Scandal

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Johnson discusses his research on active carbon to dechlorinate water

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Johnson talks about his doctoral studies at University of Delaware while teaching at Howard

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Johnson discusses his dissertation on solid-liquid separation in water treatment

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Johnson talks about serving as chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Johnson reflects on his work at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Johnson discusses his contributions as Dean of Howard University's School of Engineering

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Johnson talks about Howard University School of Engineering's Leadership Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Johnson talks about receiving the Man of Courage Award

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Johnson talks about treating water contaminated with radiological and hazardous waste

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Johnson talks about his work as an Environmental Health and Safety Consultant

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Johnson talks about his professional honors and awards

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Johnson describes his transition to Professor Emeritus and his research on producing biofuels

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Johnson reflects on his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Johnson talks about his family and their belief and pride in him

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Johnson talks about his brother

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Johnson shares his thoughts about sustainability and climate change

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Johnson reflects on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Johnson describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

9$2

DATitle
James Johnson talks about his mentors at Howard University
James Johnson talks about Howard University School of Engineering's Leadership Institute
Transcript
Okay. Okay. So who were some of your teachers and mentors at Howard [Howard University]?$$Well, I have to say I had a lot of--I had a lot of mentors. But let me talk about at least three of them. One was a guy by the name of Walter T. Daniels. He was--Dr. Daniels was a structural engineer, first African-American to get a Ph.D. He got it from Iowa State University. Dr. Daniels, when he was working on his Ph.D. and all through his schooling while he was--he went to Prairieview undergraduate, but when he went to graduate school, and he had laboratories, he had to do his labs by himself because there were segregated--it was a segregated--he basically was segregated. But he was able to do all that and do it well, and he understood the importance of education. And when we would complain about how hard it was on us at Howard, he would tell us what it was really like to be hard. So he was a role model because he had--he got his Ph.D., he was a scholar, he had a good understanding of all of the course material, and he also was a caring person, and he nurtured a lot of young people to go on to graduate school and do things. The second one was the person who got me into environmental engineering, and his name was Man Mohan Varma.$$How do you spell that? Now what is it?$$Man, M-A-N, M-O-H-A-N, and the last name is Varma, V-A-R-M-A. Dr. Varma was a (sic) environmental engineer, and he was the one that got me interested in environmental engineering and invited me to his laboratory to work when I was a junior; said, "Why don't you come down to my lab and work and I can you some of the things we do?" So he was--he had an influence on me in terms of going into environmental engineering which, at that time, was called sanitary engineering. And I worked in his lab. He also helped me to select a graduate school. And so, that was very good because he sent me to help me go to a school where he knew that it would be a caring and a welcoming environment. So, and I actually had a chance to come back, when I came back to Howard, to work with him for many years, and he still was very helpful mentoring me; made sure I did the right things, took the right professional--made right professional choices about memberships and professional societies; being active. He and I coauthored a couple of papers together and actually hosted a couple of conferences together. So he was very influential in my career in the environmental area. The third person was a guy by the name of Raymond Jones. Ray Jones was a Howard graduate who had gone to the University of Michigan and had gotten his master's degree in sanitary engineering, and came back to Howard to teach. What was unique about Ray was that he was also a practicing engineer, and I had times that I worked on a couple of projects with him and--but he also was a good mentor, because he had a nice balance about his life. He was one of the faculty, he did--he was a practitioner, so he brought that practice to the classroom so e could see really how we could take the information we were using, learning in the classroom, and how we could take and translate it into a project. So, Ray Jones was a person who helped me see the bigger picture about life, and I think that was a--he was--he also, I think, took a special interest in me because I had a chance to work with him too. Oh, and the interesting thing that--that was that I had--I had a chance to be on the faculty with all of them after leaving Howard and coming back to the faculty. So I had a chance to know them from two perspectives.$$Okay. As a student and a faculty member?$$As a student and a faculty member.$$Now, what other activities were you engaged in at Howard? Were you part of the--$$Oh, I was a studier.$$Okay.$$I just studied. (Again?) a continuation of what I did in high school, but studying in a different way. I actually, I really did study here. And I remember being in my first classes in math and science, and I was in there with students who had come from technical high schools, and so, they'd had one year of calculus already. So what they saw in calculus they already knew, and to me it was Greek. And so, it required me to really study and go back and brush up on my algebra and trigonometry, and learn those things and relearn those things as I was doing the calculus classes. So, I remember that it was at Howard that I had to have good study habits, and I didn't have time to do other things. And I actually had a detailed schedule of everything I did, and my time for relaxation was Friday evening and, also, it would be a little bit on Saturday evening. But all the other time, except for church time on Sunday, I was studying.$$That's a tremendous work ethic. I mean, who do you cite as a source of the inspiration for that? Or did you internally (unclear)$$No. It wasn't internally. But a couple of my buddies who were in the Boy Scouts with me, at least one of them that lived right around the corner from me, also was--went to Howard and he was in electrical engineering. But he stayed one year and actually flunked out. And I always knew that they were much smarter than I was because they were two years older. So there were new things I never knew. So my inspiration was that, our high school was a good high school, and I wasn't going to do what he did and I didn't care what price I had to pay, I was going to study enough so I could make it. (So that's what I did?)$So, I'm going to--I'll repeat a little bit of what I said for continuity. I think one of the things I'm very happy about that I did while I was dean is to try to find a way to follow-through on our--the mantra of the university. When President Swygert came in, the mantra became "Leadership for America and the Global Community." So we were able to find a partner in Black and Veatch that was interested in helping us to provide a leadership institute for our students. And this was a (sic) extracurricular activity for students. What we tried to do was to have a guest speaker to come on a Friday afternoon, have a lecture on leadership that'll be open to the university community, and then have that following Saturday, the following day, full of workshops on leaderships. And we were able to do that for 15 years. So, the--our partner, Black and Veatch, stuck with us for all 15 years, and they provided us with a small grant of about 25,000. But the important thing they did is, they gave us a lot of their people to help us to prepare the material. And so, they put a lot of time and effort in beyond the dollars and cents. So, highlights. So, we had guest speakers, like, to kick off, like Bill Gates. Bill Gates came to campus. He was on a tour, and he was trying to convince--on this tour, he was doing six schools a given week, and we got selected to be done (on it too?). We were selected for his visit on Friday afternoon, and so we scheduled--we scheduled our Leadership Institute to be that weekend and here's Bill Gates to kick it off. So our students got a chance to see Bill Gates. We also had a Four-Star General to come, General Lester Lyles. He actually came in the same year of 9-11. So that was kind of iffy as to whether he would be able he'd be able to come, but I should be able to tell you he came and he was well protected. The last institute we had, our plenary speaker was General Colin Powell. So he came and talked about leadership from his perspective, followed by a workshop. We also had the administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, to come and talk. So we had a lot of good people who were in leadership positions to come and to talk to our students about leadership, and we followed up with students within our college with the workshops on Saturday. So I think that, to me that was a way that we bought into the vision for the university and the mantra, and we were able to carry through. And I felt as (though?) as that was a contribution that had an impact upon a lot of our students.$$Okay. So did that start in '95 (1995) and run through 2010?$$It ran 'til 2010, right; '95 (1995) to 2010.$$Okay.$$Was the last one.$$All right. So, you said fifteen years. That pretty much locks you in (laughs).$$Oh, yeah. Yeah.$$Okay. So, what else? Anything else?$$You know, actually, I can make a list of students, because a lot of what we did was with students. I can talk about the, I think, maybe some special moments I had with students, whether it would be a teaching moment or a mentoring moment, and then look at the students three or four years down the road. But I guess I would say I always had a gang of students that I worked with, even after stepping down as dean and going into the--America's ranks and having my research projects at Howard, I still have four or five students that were, not necessary--I didn't have classes then, but they weren't in my classes, but students who came to me and kind of found me to be a person they could confide in or a person they could talk and- talk to, and we'd find ways to move them forward and help them to grow. So there were many, many, many students throughout the years that we had relationships with, in and outside the classroom that I think were very special to me, because I could see the students grow and go to the next places in their lives as a result.

Howard Adams

Educator, consultant, and author, Howard G. Adams was born on March 28, 1940 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia to Delsia Mae Waller Adams and Daniel Boone Adams. As a child, he helped his father on the family farm and enjoyed exploring nature. Adams attended Southside High School, Blairs, Virginia. During high school, he worked after-school as a kitchen helper at the Greyhound bus station in Danville, Virginia. In 1958, Adams graduated from high school, and then moved Paterson, New Jersey to escape from the segregated south. In 1959, Adams enrolled at the Norfolk Division of Virginia State College (now Norfolk State University) where he majored in biology. In order to finance his education, Adams worked at a supermarket and, during his senior year, at a fast food restaurant. Adams was active on campus, serving as Cadet Captain in the ROTC Military Science Program, president of the sophomore and senior classes, president of the biology club, and vice president of the student government association. He received his B.S. degree in biology from Norfolk State College in 1964.

That same year, Adams began his professional career as a general science teacher at Jacox Junior High School in the Norfolk City Schools System. He also received his M.S. degree in biology from Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) in 1968 as a National Science Foundation In-Service Fellow. In 1970, Norfolk State University President Lyman Beecher Brooks recruited Adams to serve as the school’s first director of alumni affairs. After three years in that position, he was promoted to vice president for student affairs at Norfolk State University. Adams also enrolled in Syracuse University’s higher education administration program, receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1978. Adams then accepted the position of executive director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. In 1989, President Ronald Regan appointed Adams to a U.S. congressional task force on women, minorities and the handicapped in science and technology. Adams founded his consulting company, H.G. Adams & Associates, Inc. in 1995.

Adams has received numerous awards including the Centennial Medallion from the American Society of Engineering Education. He was named a 20th Century Outstanding Educator by Black Issues in Higher Education and he also received the Golden Torch Award Lifetime Achievement in Academia from The National Society of Black Engineers. Adams was named by President Clinton as one of the first recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Mentoring. In addition, Adams is a board member of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education and was a former faculty member of AABHE’s Leadership and Mentoring Institute. He has written three books including his 2002 book “Get Up with Something on your Mind! Lessons for Navigating Life” and over fifteen self-help guides and handbooks. Adams is married to the Eloise Adams, Ph.D. and they have one daughter, Stephanie Glenn Adams, Ph.D.

Howard Adams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 8, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.034

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/8/2012

Last Name

Adams

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

G.

Schools

Stony Mill Elementary School

Southside High School

Norfolk State University

Virginia State University

Syracuse University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Howard

Birth City, State, Country

Danville

HM ID

ADA11

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

Get up with something on your mind.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

3/28/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Norfolk

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Meatloaf

Short Description

Educator, consultant, author, and science educator Howard Adams (1940 - ) is the founder and president of the consulting company, H.G. Adams & Associates Inc. and has written three books and over fifteen self-help guides and handbooks.

Employment

Greyhound Lines, Inc.

Norfolk Public Schools

Norview Sr. High School

National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, University of Notre Dame

H.G. Adams & Associates Inc.

Norfolk State University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Howard Adams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Howard Adams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Howard Adams describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Howard Adams talks about his mother's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Howard Adams describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Howard Adams talks about his father's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Howard Adams talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Howard Adams describes the Primitive Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Howard Adams talks about the Primitive Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Howard Adams talks about his parents and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Howard Adams talks about his family

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Howard Adams describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Howard Adams talks about his father's business relationships

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Howard Adams talks about growing up in Virginia and the Martinsville Seven Case

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Howard Adams talks about South Side High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Howard Adams talks about his elementary school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Howard Adams talks about his favorite subjects and teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Howard Adams talks about the murder of Melvin Ferguson and racial tensions in Virginia during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Howard Adams talks about working at the Greyhound Bus Station

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Howard Adams talks about his interest in baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Howard Adams talks about the arrival of electricity to his neighborhood and his interest in sports

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Howard Adams talks about his decision to move to New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Howard Adams talks about his experience in New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Howard Adams talks about his mentor and his experience at Norfolk State University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Howard Adams talks about his extracurricular activities and his colleague, Julian Manly Earls

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Howard Adams talks about his mentors from Norfolk State University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Howard Adams talks about his involvement in Civil Rights organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Howard Adams talks about his post-baccalaureate job prospects

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Howard Adams talks about his experience teaching in the Norfolk Public School System, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Howard Adams talks about his experience teaching in the Norfolk Public School System, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Howard Adams talks about his experience working in administration at Norfolk State University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Howard Adams talks about his decision to attend Syracuse University for his doctoral studies

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Howard Adams talks about his work at the University of Notre Dame

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Howard Adams talks about his work at the University of Notre Dame, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Howard Adams talks about his work at the University of Notre Dame, part 3

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Howard Adams talks about his philosophy for success

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Howard Adams talks about his booklets

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Howard Adams talks about his speaking appointments and future plans

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Howard Adams reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Howard Adams reflects on his life and career

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Howard Adams talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Howard Adams talks about the problems with U.S. education, part 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Howard Adams talks about the problems with U.S. education, part 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Howard Adams talks about the politics of graduate internships

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Howard Adams talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Howard Adams talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Howard Adams describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$4

DAStory

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DATitle
Howard Adams talks about his booklets
Howard Adams talks about his mentor and his experience at Norfolk State University
Transcript
Now, you've written several books and booklets, and so what are some of the titles and what are--$$Okay, one of them is that one, "Get Up With Something on Your Mind", all right. The, I wrote a lot of what I call "self-help" guides which are 14, 28 page, little documents, specific, "How to Have a Successful Internship Experience", "How do you go into a company and perform very well and get invited back the next summer so you don't have to worry about it? You might not go back, but you want the invitation to come back. So you, I want you--I wanted my students to have the attitude, if you don't--invite anybody back, it's gonna be me. When I'd leave Revlon's in the summer, the personnel guy would always tell me, "If we hire anybody, Adams, you're Number One". I knew that leaving. So when you leave--so we wrote a book on that, how to do that. We wrote a book how to master the graduate school process. How do you go to graduate school and finish yesterday? How do you get finished in a hurry? What does it take to get finished? We wrote a book on "Career Management 101" about how to sit down and plan to find a job and then get the job that you want and then go to work and perform well and get promoted, and don't have to worry about it. You don't have to--you don't have to worry about the economy being bad. If the place runs, I'm gonna have a job. If I don't, I go somewhere else and get myself another one. So you just don't have to worry about that. I never worried about that, never worried about a job. So I, I tried to give people the nuts and bolts, easy ready, self-help stuff on how to get to the next step of where you're trying to get to. When I first started doing graduate education, we didn't have things written in the language that's--what is a PhD? Most people don't know what it is. What's the difference between a PhD and an MD and a, and theological doctorate? What, you know, a science doctorate? What's the difference in those things? So we had to demystify graduate education, I call it. So a lot of what I, what I wrote was that. How do you decode what students need in a very simplistic kind of way so that one, they'll read it. It's readable, and it's quick and it points directly to the question that they most like have.$Okay, so, now did you know--Lymon Beacher Brooks was the president of Norfolk State.$$Of Norfolk State.$$Now, what was your relationship with Lymon Beacher Brooks?$$He was, he was the president when I was a student, and I was a student leader. So he was--by the time I got to be a senior, he had taken a particular interest in me. I wouldn't have called him a mentor at that time, but he had taken a particular interest in me. So he knew me well by the time I was a senior and would ask me to do little things. I got invited to little things. I might of got invited to a reception that somebody else didn't get invited to or something. When I graduated, I went to work at Jay Cox Junior High School which is right in the general area, right where Norfolk State is. And by that time, I had gotten back in the restaurant business. So I ran a fast food, Carl's Drive-In, my senior, my junior, end of my junior year and all of my senior year at Norfolk State [University]. I was night manager.$$Yeah, the Carl's--$$Carl's Drive--fast food, like a McDonald's--$$Okay.$$--but right on the campus, literally, almost, you know, I mean right by the campus and right across the street from the high school, Booker T. Washington High School is right across the street. So--$$Okay, I didn't wanna get you graduated yet from Norfolk State.$$Okay.$$Let's go back there for a minute. Like what was your major in--$$Biology. It was biology and I was a biology major. And I, I picked that simply because it had good equipment that I had never had a chance to use. I was going to be a history major. In fact, I sent my application in to be a history major. And I got down a week early just to look the place over and get set up and everything. And as I was walking around, I walked through the labs, and I liked the way the labs looked. I changed, went back down and changed my major to biology.$$Did--now, was there a particular teacher in biology that helped you, I mean that--$$In high school?$$No, in, in--$$Oh, well, the teachers, the faculty were good, but I didn't know them at the time. I mean I just changed my mind, just, just changed my mind because of the equipment sitting around. I just--you could walk through and see it at that time. You didn't have to have everything locked up.$$So it just kind of caught your--$$Just got a feeling, got a feeling that I'd like to do this. So I decided to major in biology. And so there was a good group of us who started out together, freshmen, freshmen. The freshmen class in biology was a pretty tight group. And so I made it through the freshman year. It was a struggle. I was behind. When I say I was behind, I hadn't had advanced chemistry. I hadn't had a good lab. I mean I had a chemistry class, and the teacher was good, but we didn't have no equipment. You know what I'm trying to say. I'd had a good biology class, but I didn't have no equipment, so I didn't know how to use the equipment and stuff. So I was behind, and so it was, it was harder than I thought it was gonna be. And I went home, and I was talking to my mother for Spring break my freshman year. She asked, "How's it going?" I said, well, it's going alright, Mother, but I'm not doing as well as I thought I was gonna do. So she said, she said, are you passing everything. I said, yes, ma'am, I'm not failing nothing. I'm just not doing as well as I thought. She said, "Are you studying hard?" And I was studying, so I said, yes, ma'am. She said, "Are you giving it your very best?" And I, you had to, you couldn't, you couldn't fib on that. You had to, you had to think about that. I mean am I, you know, am I giving it my best? And, you know, in hindsight, I probably could have given it a little bit more, but I mean I wasn't slacking off. I didn't miss no classes, I didn't cut class. I didn't leave early on Friday, none of that. So I was studying. And I'd study with people, and I went to tutoring and everything. So I said, I said, yes, ma'am, I'm, I'm doing it. She say, you go on back down there. You gone be alright. You keep giving it your best. She said, your best is good enough. You don't have to do no better than that. Your best is good enough. I put that in my book. That was good advice. "Your best is good enough." So I went back. The second year, my wife came as a freshman. And I was taking chemistry by that time. I didn't take freshman chemistry my first year. And she had had advanced chemistry. And she was on the other side of the, on the table on the other side that you could look through. And I could see her all the time. And she was brilliant and good looking. So I decided, hey, you gotta--you gonna have to hang out with somebody (laughter). It might as well be somebody who's good looking and who can do some chemistry. So we started dating, and we dated off and on all the way through, although I had a couple of girlfriends at the time. But I mean she, you know, we dated. And by the time we were juniors, we were pretty serious, and seniors, we were, we were--she was my girlfriend by the time we were seniors. And so we graduated together. But I went through. I was a, I went out for track, decided I couldn't do all of it. I couldn't work. I tell kids that you gotta decide what you can actually do. And I had to put it in the right order, so I learned how to prioritize even as a freshman. My number one priority was to have a job. You don't have a job, you can't go to school. I mean I couldn't--I had to support myself. So I had to have a job. This job was steady. It didn't pay well. It only paid .75 cents an hour, but I could, I could get 30 hours in just on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Nobody wanted to work on Sunday. I worked every Sunday almost. I worked 12 hours on Saturday the whole time I was at Norfolk State. I'd go in 8:00 o'clock on Saturday morning, and work till 8:00 Saturday night. And so I could take care of myself. School would end in May. The next day I was on the bus back to New Jersey, and usually, I'd get out in the middle of the week. So let's say, I always finished on Wednesday or Thursday. By Friday, I was back in New Jersey. By Monday, I was back at work at Revlon's, and I'd work right up until Labor Day, whenever school was--I wouldn't even go home. I'd come back here to school, and then I'd take a long weekend and go home just to holler at everybody. But most times, depending upon when school opened and how long they'd let me work. And so at the end of the year, there, but, of course, they would be closing down, and a lot of kids would wanna take some time off. Sometimes I'd work 16 hours a day. So my last check would be big. I'd, I'd get, you know, double-time, time and a half. I'd work (laughter), I'd put in all the hours I could put in so I could get a big check. They'd mail it to me after I was gone. I'd get back to school, so I'd have a big check. Sometimes my last check would pay my tuition 'cause tuition at that time was 270 a half a semester, I think, 270--about $500.00 a semester, a thousand dollars a year, a little bit less than a thousand dollars a year. I could pay that. So I didn't have to borrow money. I paid my way through. I--from the time I left home, I never wrote home for a nickel. I never wrote home for a nickel from the day I left home in 1958. I can say that. I've been able to support myself from that day.