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Joseph Monroe

Computer scientist Joseph Monroe was born in North Carolina. Monroe received his B.S. degrees in mathematics, English, and French from North Carolina A & T State University in 1962. He then enrolled at Texas A & M University and graduated from there with his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science in 1967 and 1972, respectively. Monroe was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in computer science in the United States.

Upon graduation, Monroe was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and appointed as an associate professor of computer science at the U.S. Air Force Academy. From 1978 to 1987, he held various positions at the U.S. Air Force Academy, including as the Dean of the Faculty, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, chair of the Computer Science Department. Monroe went on to become the first African American appointed as a full professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. While there, he was responsible for developing computer software systems such as the U.S. Air Force Manpower System, the U.S. Army Personnel System, U.S. Air Force Logistics systems, and the Armed Forces Intelligence Data Handling System. In addition, Monroe designed accredited computer science programs for the Egyptian Air Force Academy, and the Royal Thai Air Force Academy.

In 1987, Monroe joined the faculty at Fayetteville State University and served in various academic and administrative positions. He returned to North Carolina A & T State University in 1991 and was named Ronald E. McNair Endowed Professor and Chair of Computer Science. In 2000, Monroe assumed the additional role of Dean of the College of Engineering. Under his leadership, the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Engineering grew in size, increased funding, and hired the most tenured African American engineering professors in the United States. Monroe was a founding member of the first computer science honor society, Upsilon Pi Epsilon, which is now an international society. He served on the board of directors for the Industries of the Blind, the board of directors for Computing at NASA, and the board that governs the practice of Engineering and Surveying in North Carolina.

Monroe was awarded the U.S. Department of Defense Superior Service Medal for Superior Service and Teaching in 1987, and the U.S. Air Force Legion of Merit Service Medal for Outstanding Teaching and Research in 1974, 1978, and 1982. In 1992, he was named National Technical Achiever of the Year by the National Technical Achievers Association.

Monroe is married to the former Sally McNair Monroe. They have two sons: Joseph Monroe, Jr. and Col. Robert Bruce Monroe.

Joseph Monroe was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 7, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.075

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/7/2013

Last Name

Monroe

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Texas A&M University

First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Rowland

HM ID

MON08

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Colorado

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

5/18/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Greensboro

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Computer scientist Joseph Monroe (1936 - ) was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in the field of computer science, and went on to become the first African American appointed as a full professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Employment

United States Air Force Academy

Fayetteville State University

North Carolina A&T State University

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joseph Monroe's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joseph Monroe lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joseph Monroe describes his mother's family background and her poor educational opportunities

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joseph Monroe describes the history, demographics and racial climate of Rowland, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joseph Monroe talks about his mother's talent for singing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joseph Monroe describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joseph Monroe talks about the South of the Border resort located at the border of the Carolinas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joseph Monroe describes his father's talents, his interest in baseball, and the baseball games in Rowland, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joseph Monroe talks about his family's life as sharecroppers in Rowland, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joseph Monroe describes how his parents met in Rowland, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Joseph Monroe describes his likeness to his parents and lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Joseph Monroe describes his family's home where he grew up in Rowland, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Joseph Monroe describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Joseph Monroe describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Rowland, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Joseph Monroe talks about the landscape of Rowland, North Carolina, the farming activities, and the industries that were established there

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Joseph Monroe talks about his childhood interest in taking gadgets apart and putting them back together

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joseph Monroe talks about his experience in elementary school, and juggling his education with his responsibilities on the family farm

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joseph Monroe talks about his family gatherings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joseph Monroe discusses segregation and the racial dynamics in Rowland, North Carolina in the 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joseph Monroe describes watching the second boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling with his grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joseph Monroe recalls the excitement when Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joseph Monroe talks about excelling in mathematics in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joseph Monroe talks about his determination to not become a farmer and his experience in his high school typing class

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joseph Monroe talks about his decision to join the United States Air Force in 1954

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joseph Monroe describes his early experience in the United States Air Force, and learning Russian at Syracuse University in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Joseph Monroe describes his experience in Turkey while stationed there with the United States Air Force in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Joseph Monroe talks about his efforts to continue his education while stationed in Turkey

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joseph Monroe talks about the U.S. Air Force's educational and financial benefits - part one

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joseph Monroe talks about the U.S. Air Force's educational and financial benefits - part two

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joseph Monroe talks about how he met his wife, Sallie Monroe

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joseph Monroe describes his experience at the University of Colorado, and the master's degree program in computer science

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joseph Monroe describes his experience at North Carolina A & T State University in the 1960s - part one

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joseph Monroe describes his experience at North Carolina A&T University in the 1960s - part two

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joseph Monroe describes his experience as a graduate student at Texas A & M University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joseph Monroe talks about the early days of computers and computer programming systems

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joseph Monroe talks about his mentors at Texas A&M University and about founding the computer science honor society, Epsilon Pi Epsilon

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Joseph Monroe describes his experience on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he taught computer science

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Joseph Monroe describes his decision to pursue his Ph.D. degree in computer science

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joseph Monroe describes taking the GRE and his experience with finding housing at Texas A&M University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joseph Monroe describes his trip from Colorado to Texas in 1965, and race relations in College Station, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joseph Monroe talks about his Ph.D. dissertation on complexity theory and about winning the U.S. Air Force Academy golf championship

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joseph Monroe discusses his Ph.D. dissertation on complexity theory and earning his Ph.D. degree in computer science

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joseph Monroe talks about the growth of degree programs in computer science in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joseph Monroe talks about being the first African American to be appointed as a tenured permanent professor at any U.S. service academy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joseph Monroe talks about accrediting computer science programs, teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Patricia Schroeder

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joseph Monroe talks about the evolution of computers since the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joseph Monroe describes his decision to accept a position as the vice president of academic affairs at the University of North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Joseph Monroe talks about serving at Fayetteville State University and at North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Joseph Monroe discusses his endowed professorship of computer science at North Carolina A&T University, and the field of geomatics

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joseph Monroe describes the uses of geomatics and explains how a GPS device works

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joseph Monroe talks about his research on transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security, and on facial and voice recognition

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joseph Monroe talks about his research on reusing the ATA language in the navigation systems for ships

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joseph Monroe talks about his research on adaptation and scalability in computers

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joseph Monroe describes his contributions as the dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A & T University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joseph Monroe talks about the Engineering Research Center at North Carolina A & T State University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joseph Monroe talks about his mentoring initiatives at North Carolina A & T State University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joseph Monroe talks about serving on the Board of Directors for Computing at NASA

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Joseph Monroe talks about his most significant contributions as the dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Joseph Monroe describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Joseph Monroe talks about his family, and his decision to not enroll in the NASA astronaut program

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joseph Monroe talks about his sons, Joseph Monroe, Jr. and Robert Bruce Monroe

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joseph Monroe reflects upon his legacy and talks about his involvement in the Bible training center

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joseph Monroe talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joseph Monroe describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Joseph Monroe talks about his decision to join the United States Air Force in 1954
Joseph Monroe describes his contributions as the dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A & T University
Transcript
So, when you were a senior [at Rowland Southside School, Rowland, North Carolina], what were your prospects for college? Were you thinking about college?$$Yes, I was. But the problem was--I could sense, I knew about our financial situation. And it took money to be in college. And I had a sister in college, at Fayetteville Teachers' College [Fayetteville, North Carolina] at that time. And I can remember the struggle we had getting her twenty dollars a month. They let us have a monthly plan, but that was a struggle, getting that to her. So, the principal had said I could go to [North Carolina] A and T [Agricultural and Technical University, Greensboro, North Carolina] and come back and be the math teacher. My father [Willie Birth Monroe] thought that was a great idea and my mother [Cilla Jane Baker Monroe] thought it was a great idea. I didn't think it was such a good idea, because that would be hand going off to college and we had, my sister had two more years. One of the young men in from our high school went to the [U.S.] Air Force. And he came back in the school and talked about it, and I begged my parents to allow me to join the Air Force. And about the time they were ready to capitulate, the neighbor's son was killed in the Korean conflict. They said, no way. But my mom found--one Sunday I didn't go to church. I stayed back practicing my father's signature. She found those notes. She said, "That boy's determined to go, we'd better let him go." So, they signed for me to go to the Air Force. And I told, I promised her I would go to college and study math and become a teacher and come back. And I had no intentions of doing that. But I did go to the Air Force and got some good technical training. And the principal's wife was the English teacher. She thought I should go and study math and English and come back and teach that. So--, but I didn't. I went off to the Air Force. And after four years in the Air Force my time was up, but I was overseas doing a good job, and the commanding officer said, "We're going to send you to college." I told my mom, "The Air Force is going to send me to college. I'm not getting out."$$Now, just, I want to go back a little bit, just to get the dates.$$Yes.$$You graduated from high school in what?$$1954.$$'54 [1954]. Okay.$$Graduated in May, and June 1, I was in Texas.$$In the United States Air Force.$$The United States Air Force.$$And you went to, where in Texas did you go?$$Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio [Texas].$$Okay, okay. And that's where you had basic training, I guess, right?$$Basic training.$Tell us about being the dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A and T [Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina].$$That was a lot of fun. I had all the classical disciplines there. And my biggest thing there was fund-raising, raising funds to recruit students, particularly African American students. It was a big challenge. And our alums were not accustomed to giving much (laughter). So, what I did was got with the companies that were recruiting African Americans--General Electric, Northrup Grumman, and all the companies that recruited--Merck Company. And I got with the presidents of the people who handled the finances and told them, "Look, you don't need--if you want to beef up your African American population in engineering, see me." And they did, and I did. They came and saw our programs. And what I did do to the programs, was make sure they were nationally recognized. And the national recognition in engineering, there's something called the Fundamentals of Engineering, the FE exam, nationally standardized exam. I convinced the students they could pass the exam. And the big problem I had--the faculty wanted to run me off--was convincing the faculty that students could pass. So, we went back to the math department where they enter--worked with them. And we worked with the physics department, worked with everybody who had a hand in the fundamentals. We worked with them. We got our students passing at the same rate, or higher rate, than the students at NC [North Carolina] State [University, Raleigh, North Carolina]. Duke [University, Durham, North Carolina] was the only school in North Carolina that offered engineering that could out-perform the [North Carolina] A and T students in engineering. The school at the University of Charlotte [University of North Carolina at Charlotte], we swooped them first. (laughter) Then we took NC State. We never--Duke was always 100 percent. We never could take them. We'd be in the high 90s, 100 percent area every other year. That got the program going, and we got more funding than we needed. When I left, they had about five million dollars they couldn't find students to come take.$$Now, it says here that you also, under your leadership, there were more tenured or tenure-track African American engineering professors at A and T than any other place in the country.$$I just adopted from the [U.S.] Air Force. I would find the ones who was good in the undergraduate program and sponsor him or her for two to four years in a doctoral program. Most of them were successful. Then the allocation [ph.] they had there was, I had to compete for them at the end, you know. They could get big salaries elsewhere. I had to get the salaries up, to do that.$$Okay, okay.