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History of NSBE.



Two Purdue undergraduate students, Edward Barnette (now deceased) and Fred Cooper approached the dean of engineering at Purdue University with the concept of starting the Black Society of Engineers (BSE). They wanted to establish a student organization to help improve the recruitment and retention of black engineering students. In the late 1960′s, a devastating 80 percent of the black freshmen entering the engineering program dropped out. The dean agreed to the idea and assigned the only black faculty member on staff, Arthur J. Bond, as advisor. Barnett served as the first president of the BSE.


The founders of NSBE, now known as the “Chicago Six”, Anthony Harris, Brian Harris, Stanley L. Kirtley, John W. Logan, Jr., Edward A. Coleman, and George A. Smith gained momentum among their peers. Anthony Harris, president of the Purdue chapter, wrote a letter to the presidents and deans of every accredited engineering program in the country (288), explaining the Society of Black Engineers (SBE) concept and asked them to identify black student leaders, organizations and faculty members who might support [its] efforts on a national basis. Approximately 80 schools responded. Many had similar Black student organizations with similar objectives.


The first national meeting was held. It was at that historic meeting through majority vote, that SBE became the National Society of Black Engineers. The familiar NSBE symbol “N” with lightning bolts was chosen and it remains a distinctively recognizable symbol representing the premier technical organization for African American engineering students and professionals. NSBE was eventually incorporated in Texas, in 1976 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. John Cason, also of Purdue, served as the first elected president of NSBE. As the organization grew, Virginia Booth became the first female National Chairperson and the first to serve two terms 1978-1980.

The torch symbolizes members’ everlasting, burning desire to achieve success in a competitive society and positively affect the quality of life for all people. The lightning bolt represents the striking impact that will be felt by the society and industry due to the contributions and accomplishments made by the dedicated members of the National Society of Black Engineers.



NSBE-UTK was chartered by Fred D. Brown. Our first board consisted of the 7 members listed below.

President: Lois Wilson; Vice President: Robert Lewis III;  Treasurer: Tonya Waldon; Secretaries: Ureka Ware and Jackie Shields; Parliamentarian: Mark Drake; Faculty Advisor: Dr. Wayan E. Scott.


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