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George Langford

Biologist and academic administrator George M. Langford was born on August 26, 1944 in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina to Lillie and Maynard Langford. Langford excelled at math in high school and was fascinated by the shapes and structures found under the microscope. He studied biology at Fayetteville State University earning his B.S. degree in 1966. Despite the lack of laboratory facilities, Langford had good mentors who persuaded him to attend graduate school. He earned his M.S. degree in 1969 and his Ph.D. degree in 1971, both in cell biology from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). He finished his postdoctoral training in 1973 from the cell biology program at the University of Pennsylvania as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fellow.

In 1973, Langford joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts as a professor of cell biology and conducted research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1976. He continued his career in academia, teaching at Howard University in 1977 and joining the faculty of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1979. He was promoted to a full professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1988. Langford’s research focused on the nerves of invertebrates as well as cellular motility. He was honored with an appointment to the National Science Foundation (NSF) where he served as director of cell biology from 1988 to 1989. In 1991, Langford joined the faculty of Dartmouth College as the Ernest Everett Just Professor of Natural Sciences and a professor of biological sciences where he remained until 2005. Between 2005 and 2008, Langford was employed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst as dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Distinguished Professor of Biology. In 2008, he was engaged by Syracuse University as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Langford holds memberships in many nationally prominent professional societies including the American Society for Cell Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Corporation of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA and the Society of Sigma Xi. He served on the National Science Board (NSB) from 1998 to 2004, where he served as chair of the Education and Human Resources Committee and the Vannevar Bush Award Committee. Langford has been recognized numerous times for his work including the Illinois Institute of Technology Professional Achievement Award and the American Society for Cell Biology Ernest Everett Just Lectureship Award. Langford received an honorary Doctorate from Beloit College in 2003. He is married to Sylvia Langford and they have three children.

George Langford was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 6, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.165

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/6/2012

Last Name

Langford

Middle Name

Malcolm

Schools

Potecasi Graded School

W.S. Creecy High School

Fayetteville State University

Illinois Institute of Technology

University of Pennsylvania

Beloit College

Woodland Elementary

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Halifax

HM ID

LAN08

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

C'est la vie.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/26/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Syracuse

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Apples

Short Description

Cell biologist and academic administrator George Langford (1944 - ) is an expert on cell motility and served as a dean at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Syracuse University

Employment

Syracuse University

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Dartmouth College

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Howard University

University of Massachusetts, Boston

University of Pennsylvania

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Marine Biological Laboratory

Argonne National Laboratory

Favorite Color

Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Langford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Langford lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Langford describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Langford talks about his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Langford talks about his mother's growing up in Potecasi, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Langford describes his mother's remarkable skills as a farmer and a homemaker

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Langford describes his father's family background - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Langford describes his father's family background - part two

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George Langford talks about his father attending high school, and his paternal family's reputation as merchants and tradespeople

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George Langford discusses the history and demographics of Potecasi, North Carolina, and talks about Nat Turner and the slave revolt of 1831

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Langford describes the segregated town of Potecasi, North Carolina, while he was growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Langford talks about his father's family receiving an education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Langford talks about his parents getting married in the early 1920s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Langford talks about segregation in North Carolina, and his father's role in mediating peace during inter-racial conflicts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Langford describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George Langford talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George Langford describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George Langford describes his childhood memories on his family's farm in Potecasi, North Carolina, and talks about the home where he grew up

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - George Langford describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Potecasi, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - George Langford describes his experience as the youngest of nine children

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - George Langford describes his interests while growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - George Langford talks about his father's physical strength and his long life

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - George Langford talks about his access to African American magazines and newspapers while growing up in Potecasi, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - George Langford talks about all the schools that he attended, and describes his elementary school experience at Potecasi Graded School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Langford describes his experience in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Langford talks about the high elementary school drop-out rate while he was in school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Langford describes his involvement in Church as a child, and his recollections of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Langford describes his experience during segregation in Potecasi, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Langford describes his experience at W.S. Creecy High School, his interest in science, and the mentorship that he received from his teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Langford talks about his interest in the physical sciences and his decision to major in biology in college

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Langford talks about his academic performance and his involvement in extracurricular activities at W.S. Creecy High School

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George Langford talks about his mentors at W.S. Creecy High School, and his decision to pursue a college education at Fayetteville State University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Langford describes his experience at Fayetteville State University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George Langford talks about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George Langford describes how the student government at Fayetteville State University facilitated the integration of Fayetteville in the 1960s-part one

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George Langford describes how the student government at Fayetteville State University facilitated the integration of Fayetteville in the 1960s-part two

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George Langford talks about his mentors, Joseph Knuckles and F. Roy Hunter, at Fayetteville State University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George Langford describes the strong liberal arts and education programs at Fayetteville State University, and his involvement in music while there

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George Langford describes his first winter in Chicago, and talks about the blizzard of 1967

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George Langford talks about his experience in Chicago, and how he met his wife, Sylvia

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - George Langford talks about his doctoral advisor, William Danforth

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - George Langford talks about his interest in cell biology, and his mentors, Teru Hayashi and Jean Clark Dan, at the Illinois Institute of Technology

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George Langford talks about the unrest in Chicago, following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George Langford talks about other black students at the Illinois Institute of Technology while he was a student there in the late 1960s and early 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George Langford describes his Ph.D. dissertation on the growth of the unicellular protozoa of genus Euglena, in the absence of oxygen

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George Langford talks about the role of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in shaping his research career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George Langford describes his introduction to cell biology and live-cell imaging, and his experience at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George Langford describes his postdoctoral studies on the mechanism of motility in Pyrsonympha, the native protozoa found in termite guts

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George Langford talks about his experience at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and his reasons for leaving there

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George Langford describes his rich scientific experience at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and its influence on his research career

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George Langford talks about the life of Ernest Everett Just, his pioneering science, and his tenure at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - George Langford talks about the similarities between his scientific career and that of Ernest Everett Just

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - George Langford describes being an African American researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, and current racial trends in science

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - George Langford talks about his appointment at Howard University and his subsequent transition to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George Langford describes the racial challenges at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George Langford talks about segregation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the surrounding community in the 1980s

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George Langford describes his experience as the chairman of the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George Langford describes his experience as the director of the cell biology program at the National Science Foundation (NSF)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George Langford talks about his appointment as the Ernest Everett Just Professor of Natural Sciences at Dartmouth College in 1991

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - George Langford describes the liberal arts style of education at Dartmouth College

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - George Langford describes his efforts to increase the retention of African American students in science at Dartmouth College

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - George Langford talks about the field of social science, and his efforts to educate his colleagues and students about the concept of "white privilege"

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - George Langford describes his groundbreaking discovery of actin-dependent organelle movement in squid axoplasm

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - George Langford talks about biologist, Robert D. Allen

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - George Langford describes the implications of his discovery of actin-dependent organelle movement in squid axoplasm

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - George Langford describes his service on the National Science Board, and talks about atmospheric scientist, Warren Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - George Langford talks about his service on the National Science Board's National Workforce Task Force Sub-Committee in 1999

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - George Langford describes his service as the dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - George Langford describes his service as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - George Langford describes his current research on yeast toxins and the collaboration between science and humanities at Syracuse University

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - George Langford shares his perspectives on how modern technology affects education

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - George Langford describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - George Langford reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - George Langford reflects upon his choices and shares his advice to young students who want to pursue studies in the STEM fields

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - George Langford talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - George Langford talks about his exposure to the liberal arts and humanities at Dartmouth College

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - George Langford talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$7

DAStory

8$1

DATitle
George Langford describes his rich scientific experience at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and its influence on his research career
George Langford talks about his service on the National Science Board's National Workforce Task Force Sub-Committee in 1999
Transcript
So, it was while you were there [University of Massachusetts in Boston] that you took advantage of the Marine Biological Laboratory [MBL] at Woods Hole [Massachusetts].$$That's right, that's right. I began going to the Marine Biological Laboratory in '72 [1972] when I was at Penn [University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. And then I continued going for the time that I was at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.$$Okay. Well, tell us the significance of this place. And then there's another, there's a figure in the history of black science that spent a lot of time there, Dr. Ernest Everett Just [pioneering African American embryologist who studied the early development of marine invertebrates].$$Right.$$I think you've discussed him in lectures and that sort of thing, so--$$Right. Yes, so the Marine Biological Laboratory became one of the most important institutions in my development as a scientist. I went there while I was a post-doc at Penn because my, post-doc mentor Shinya Inoue always moved his laboratory there in the summers. And I went there to take the physiology course, and this was one of those amazing experiences. It's a total emersion course. It teaches you really the fine points of research science, and you're learning it from the best people in the discipline. So it's a great place, it's very student-oriented. Faculty members who come there do it because they love to do it. They are accessible in ways that they're not when they're at the home institution. And it creates this atmosphere of openness and really strong support. So, you develop, you know, an excellent network of individuals to work with as a result of being there. So, I went there in '72 [1972] for the physiology course, and I went back in '74 [1974] for the neurobiology course. And then I began to go as an independent scientist. I served as an MBL Steps [ph.] Fellow, a Macy--Josiah Macy Fellow, working in the laboratory of other scientists as I was developing my own research program, and then began to go there as an independent investigator. So, it's really, it's a unique place. If you've never been there it's really worth a visit because there's just none other place like it. So, for my own advisor, you know, because of the stress of all of the things he had to do when he was at the university, it was very hard to get in to talk to him. But in Woods Hole, it was easy, you know. You had, you could sit out on a bench by the water and talk at lunch. You could go--you know, you could spend time in the evenings working together. So, people were just accessible, and it was a wonderful learning experience. Because as I said before, you remember--I, you know, research science was all new to me, and it takes a long time to really develop a strong network and to understand just how to move a science project forward. So, I depended a great deal on the network of friends that I developed at the Marine Biological Laboratory.$[In] '99 [1999], you served as vice chair of the National Science--, I'm sorry, the National Science Board's National Workforce Task Force Sub-Committee.$$Right, right.$$What is that, now?$$So, the chair of the board at the time, Eamon (ph., unclear) [M. Kelly], wanted to address this issue of the lack of students going into the sciences. And so, he put together a task force of the board to really look at this issue. And so, for a year we actually studied the trends for students going into the sciences. And, you know, it was really frightening what we observed, you know. The data showed that we were still under-producing students in the sciences. We were doing better in the biological sciences but the numbers were very, very, small in physics and they were pretty miserable in chemistry and really bad in engineering. And so, the board put together a strong set of recommendations on how we could increase the number of students, the domestic students, who were majoring in the sciences. This is an ongoing problem, we haven't solved it. But the board was really on top of it way back there in '98 [1998], '99 [1999] to try to address that issue.$$Okay, okay. Now in 2000 you were nominated by President [Bill] Clinton for a second six-year term on the National Science Board, and you then subsequently served in 2002, you served as chair of the National Science Board Education and Human Resources Committee.$$Right, right. So, the board had several standing committees. And one of the standing committees was the Committee on the Education and Human Resources Directive. And so, this was a very important assignment as well, because this was the committee that oversaw all of the program activities at the NSF [National Science Foundation] that were designed to increase the pipeline. You know, programs that were designed to increase the quality of training in the public schools in K-12 [kindergarten through twelfth grade] as well as curriculum changes within the universities. And so, this, the committee was in charge of oversight of all of those grant programs.$$Okay. How closely did you work with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson? You know, she was in charge of the science committee.$$That's right, yes. I got to attend several workshops that she organized to deal with this question. And she was a very, very strong supporter of the National Science Foundation and the programs that it had designed to increase students in the sciences. So, she was considered one of our strongest champions on the [Capitol] Hill.$$Okay.

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

USA

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.

Demetrius Venable

Physicist and physics professor Demetrius D. Venable was born on October 11, 1947 in Powhatan, Virginia to Josephine Viola Bell Venable and James Bernard Venable. He attended Pocahontas High School where Venable’s father, who was his high school math teacher, helped spark Venable’s interest in math and science. He received his B.S. degree in physics from Virginia State College in 1970. Continuing with his studies, he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from American University in 1972 and 1974, respectively.

Upon completion of his Ph.D. program, Venable was hired by IBM-East Fishkill where he studied semi-conductor measurement technology as a senior associate engineer. After two years with the company, Venable returned to academia at Saint Paul’s College as an assistant professor of physics and director of the Cooperative Physics Program. In 1978, he joined the faculty of Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) as an assistant professor of physics. One of Venable’s major accomplishments at Hampton was his instrumental role in founding the doctorate program in physics. He held numerous positions at Hampton, ultimately becoming executive vice president and provost in 1994. When he moved to Howard University in 1995, he was named the chairman of the department of physics and astronomy, a post that he held until 2007. During his tenure at Howard University, Venable helped create the interdisciplinary doctorate program in atmospheric sciences. He also was instrumental in establishing atmospheric physics research at the Howard University Beltsville Research Campus and the Raman Lidar Program. With a specialty in optical physics, Venable has studied water vapor mixing ratios and atmospheric dynamics to further his group’s goal of weather and climate predictability.

Throughout his career, Venable has received numerous recognitions including the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s Distinguished Public Service Medal and the White House Initiative Science and Technology Advisory Committee’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Science and Technology. Venable served as chairman of the American Institute of Physics’ Advisory Committee on Education from 1998 to 2001 and he is a charter fellow of the National Society of Black Physicists. He has served on various boards and committees at the state and national levels including on the U. S. Department of Energy's Fusion Energy Advisory Committee, The American Association of Physics Teachers, The Virginia Academy of Science, The Southeastern Universities Research Association, The Virginia Aerospace Business Roundtable and The National Physical Sciences Consortium. Venable is married Geri Turner. They have raised two children, Juanita and Jessica.

Demetrius Venable was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 14, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.133

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/14/2012

Last Name

Venable

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Schools

Virginia State University

American University

Columbia University

First Name

Demetrius

Birth City, State, Country

Powhatan

HM ID

VEN01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Knowledge Is A Value In Itself, It Need Serve No Other Purpose In The World.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/11/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Physicist and physics professor Demetrius Venable (1947 - ) was instrumental in the founding of the doctorate program in physics at Hampton University. He was also influential in establishing the atmospheric physics research at the Howard University Beltsville Research Campus and the Raman Lidar Program.

Employment

IBM

Saint Paul's College

Hampton University

Howard University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:12496,170:13900,187:22722,282:35262,426:35642,432:35946,437:37010,454:41418,610:46125,686:47385,700:50010,737:53265,831:55365,863:55785,868:61174,915:63465,959:64334,973:65361,990:67415,1028:68442,1044:68995,1052:76907,1276:77618,1286:78013,1293:78408,1299:79119,1316:79514,1322:81884,1369:82358,1376:88367,1441:88922,1447:91499,1473:91997,1481:96894,1593:98637,1630:99052,1636:101044,1685:105770,1712:106238,1719:107174,1740:107486,1745:107954,1752:108266,1757:111152,1822:111620,1829:112088,1837:117840,1891$0,0:18412,324:21230,335:21466,346:22528,407:28324,475:29825,513:31405,546:31721,557:32037,562:37056,662:48391,855:49321,867:50158,877:51728,894:54780,960:56524,983:61883,1099:64925,1145:67967,1176:75972,1280:83670,1359:84118,1364:86806,1404:90299,1431:91168,1444:91484,1449:92037,1457:95262,1487:101164,1545:102088,1560:104972,1593:106304,1623:106896,1632:107932,1658:108524,1668:112298,1741:116442,1845:120840,1859:121428,1867:122184,1879:123696,1900:124368,1909:125292,1921:126132,1931:127980,1975:128568,1995:131340,2055:131928,2063:140550,2191:143658,2248:144176,2256:144842,2270:145434,2280:146692,2304:148320,2341:148616,2346:148986,2352:149504,2360:153736,2379:154447,2390:155474,2408:156422,2453:159231,2468:168160,2582:172556,2636:173074,2645:175056,2665:175552,2675:176730,2703:177164,2712:178466,2749:178962,2758:179210,2763:180698,2808:180946,2820:182682,2869:185848,2889:186508,2901:186838,2907:187102,2912:187432,2918:187696,2923:188158,2932:188818,2950:190138,2979:190996,2996:194110,3008:195012,3023:199932,3139:205320,3192:205796,3200:206544,3217:207428,3231:208108,3244:208788,3256:209808,3286:210692,3300:215090,3357:218518,3396:223945,3446:229695,3548:231070,3601:232195,3615:253114,3702:253751,3710:259598,3788:260588,3800:263288,3810:263750,3818:264608,3833:264872,3838:265136,3843:268380,3900:268660,3905:269360,3917:274675,3931:278585,3991:279435,4000:280200,4014:285555,4137:286830,4157:287510,4166:288530,4180:295416,4212:306562,4301:309004,4342:309670,4353:309966,4358:310484,4368:312334,4397:316644,4443:317256,4454:317664,4461:321676,4555:322220,4564:322832,4574:323444,4586:323920,4594:330778,4669:333786,4719:335102,4747:336230,4773:339220,4796:339500,4801:341600,4843:341950,4849:343770,4888:344610,4902:345870,4934:347910,4941
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Demetrius Venable's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Demetrius Venable lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Demetrius Venable describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Demetrius Venable describes his family's hometown in Powhatan, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Demetrius Venable talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Demetrius Venable describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Demetrius Venable talks about his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Demetrius Venable talks about his father's service in World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Demetrius Venable talks about his parents and his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Demetrius Venable describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Demetrius Venable describes his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Demetrius Venable describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Demetrius Venable talks about his family's involvement in church

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Demetrius Venable describes his childhood interest in math and science

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Demetrius Venable describes his experience in school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Demetrius Venable talks about his growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Demetrius Venable describes the integration of schools in Powhatan, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Demetrius Venable talks about his experience at St. Frances de Sales Girls School and St. Emma Military Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Demetrius Venable describes his experiences at Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Demetrius Venable talks about his decision to major in physics at Virginia State University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Demetrius Venable describes his activities at Virginia State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Demetrius Venable talks about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Demetrius Venable describes his employment opportunities as a physics major

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Demetrius Venable describes his choice of American University for graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Demetrius Venable talks about his African American mentors in physics

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Demetrius Venable describes his Ph.D. dissertation research at American University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Demetrius Venable describes how he met his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Demetrius Venable discusses African Americans in physics

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Demetrius Venable describes his experience at IBM and his decision to transition into teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Demetrius Venable describes his experience at St. Paul's College in Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Demetrius Venable describes his research at Brooks Air Force Base and NASA Langley Research Center

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Demetrius Venable describes his experience at Hampton University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Demetrius Venable describes his efforts to establish a Ph.D. program in physics at Hampton University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Demetrius Venable describes his research at Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Demetrius Venable talks about the success of minority students in Howard University's atmospheric sciences program

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Demetrius Venable discusses the scientific evidence for global warming

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Demetrius Venable talks about the Ph.D. program in physics at Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Demetrius Venable describes his research contributions in optical physics

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Demetrius Venable describes his goals for future research

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Demetrius Venable reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Demetrius Venable describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Demetrius Venable describes his family and his personal life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Demetrius Venable describes what it takes to become a physicist

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Demetrius Venable describes how he would like to be remembered

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Demetrius Venable talks about his African American mentors in physics
Demetrius Venable describes his research at Howard University
Transcript
Tell us, first of all, before we go into American University, who is your mentor at Howard? Who is the--$$Arthur Thorpe. And Arthur Thorpe is still on the faculty here today, okay. So this is 1966, I mean 1970, right. My, Dr. [James] Davenport, who I spoke about earlier, was a graduate of Howard [Howard University in Washington, District of Columbia], and he and Dr. Thorpe were colleagues here. So Dr. Thorpe actually would come down to Virginia State [Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia] and served as my senior thesis advisor when I was at Virginia State. So he helped out a lot with developing and strengthening the program down there. You may have heard of John Hunter. John Hunter was one of, probably the third African American to get a Ph.D. in physics. And John Hunter established the program in physics at Virginia State. And that program went on to produce a lot of well-known people who became physicists later on. Dr. Branson was a graduate of that program. And Dr. Branson was here as chairman of the physics department at Howard.$$That's Herman Branson.$$Herman Branson, uh-huh, was a student of John Hunter's.$$He was president of Central State [Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio].$$President of Central State, right. I sometimes tell a story about, you know, those connections there. You go from John Hunter to Herman Branson to Arthur Thorpe and then to me, you know, so I can draw lines between us, right. And I tell my students that, you know, you need to put your name on there and put a line there and go to work at a, at a nice institution and, you know, send some folks along as well, make the line longer. But in any case, Arthur Thorpe was my mentor here at Howard. And he's been a real strong supporter of my entire career. He was instrumental in my coming back to work here, in fact. So, yeah, quite a good supporter.$Okay, so, now, so were you actually, were you seeking another spot or how did the Howard [University in Washington, District of Columbia] position--$$Well, you know, as I said, you know, I really didn't wanna be continuing to go up in administration. So Arthur Thorpe, again, came to me and said, look, you know, we need a chairman. This is an opportunity. Would you apply for it? And I said, yes, I'll apply for it, you know, as long as it means I can get back to doing research because I really couldn't do research and be vice president. It's just, just impossible to do that. So I said, yes, as long as I can get back to doing research, it's something that I would consider. So I put an application in, and they made me an offer.$$Okay, so you came over to Howard [University] in '95 [1995]?$$Ninety five [1995].$$Okay, all right.$$So I was at Hampton for seventeen years, and I was chairman and administrator there, and then I was, been at Howard, this is my seventeenth year at Howard.$$Okay, now, what have been--what have the years at Howard been like? Have you engaged basically in research?$$Yeah, well, I served as department chairman for, for twelve years here. Being a chairman is very different from being a vice president. I wanna say that first of all. That's like being a, just a regular part of the faculty, right. So, I spent a good fraction of my time developing research programs. My, my personal research has been focused around the, the laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Dr. Walter Lowe had done a lot, he spent a lot of time at (unclear) developing the facility out there--this is a facility that the university owned since the early '90s [1990s], I mean the early '70s [1970s]. And it was not a lot going on out there. Walter went out there and sort of renovated everything and got the lab back up and running for a project that he was doing in accelerator physics, synchrotron radiation with the Argonne Lab. So he spent a lot of time and effort and money and got the place back up and running. When Walter's project completed, he was building an accelerator that was gonna be moved to Chicago [Illinois]. So when it would move to Chicago, his activities at Beltsville were essentially completed. We started phasing in at about the time he was phasing out with the understanding of developing some laser physics activities. So we started by developing what's called a LIDAR [Light Detection and Ranging] facility. And that was primarily an effort on my part and Dr. Thorpe's part.$$Now, what was that? What was LIDAR--$$LIDAR is a technique where you use laser and you shine the laser into the atmosphere, and you study the light that is backscattered from the atmosphere, you know the laser light interact with particles and the molecules in the air. And some of the lights backscattered so you can detect it with a telescope. And you analyze the light that comes back into the telescope, and by analyzing the light that you collect, you are able to say what is in the atmosphere, and we were focusing on water vapor, although you can measure a lot of things. We were focusing on how much water vapor is in the atmosphere for us and how rapidly that water vapor concentration changed as a function of time and how that water vapor concentration changed as a function of altitude. So that's what we're using LIDAR for. So it had to do with efforts to do atmospheric studies. So I played a major role in developing--.$$And how do you spell the, that again--$$L-I-D-A-R. It's an acronym. It stands for light detection and ranging.$$Okay, light detection and ranging. Okay. So you've been, so this was established out at Beltsville.$$Um-hum, I started that in maybe '97 [1997], and, you know, maybe phasing over time. And as, in addition to that, the physics department was very much involved, the physics department here at Howard was very much involved in developing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in atmospheric science. So physics, chemistry and mechanical engineering were all involved in developing this interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in atmospheric science. So my work was one of the research components of that interdisciplinary job. We hired Dr. Alvert--Everett, I'm sorry, I'm getting a little tired, Everett Joseph here in physics, and Dr. Gregory Jenkins here in physics to work with that effort, Dr. Vernon Morris in chemistry and I think Dr. Sonya Smith, all of these were people involved in developing that effort. She was in mechanical engineering. So, so my part was a research component within that overall picture, and I was developing that at Beltsville. Beltsville, since then, from an atmospheric physics standpoint, has grown extensively. We now have a full array of measurement capabilities out there with respect to atmospheric measurements. And we're using this data to go into models for, primarily for climatology, looking at climate change.