Percy Pierre named chair of NAE Racial Justice and Equity Committee

PPRetired MSU vice president and emeritus professor Percy A. Pierre will serve in yet another national leadership role – as chair of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Racial Justice and Equity Committee.

Professor Emeritus Percy Pierre to lead national effort for racial justice and equity in engineering.
Professor Emeritus Percy Pierre to lead national effort for racial justice and equity in engineering.
NAE President John Anderson said the new presidential advisory committee will advise him and the NAE Council on ways that the engineering community and the NAE can address issues related to racial injustice and inequity.

“Current events underscore how critical it is for us to redouble our efforts to include the perspectives of everyone as we build the future world that we want,” Anderson said, “one in which we are all value equally. Engineers serve society, and to be effective engineers must be aware of societal problems in all dimensions.”

The NAE committee includes 12 current and former university and corporate executives and is tasked with:
• Recommending ways to make NAE members and the general engineering community aware of racial injustice and inequity.
• Recommending initiatives designed to increase the percentage of engineering degrees in higher education achieved by African Americans.
• Developing strategies to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the highest leadership positions of the NAE.
• Recommending ways that technology can be used to improve racial justice.
• Developing strategies for fundraising to achieve these tasks.

Pierre was elected to the NAE in 2009 for “service as assistant secretary of the Army, contributions to engineering education, and leadership in creating the national minority engineering effort.” His NAE responsibilities have included chairing the planning committee for the Symposium on Minorities in Engineering and subsequently the NAE Committee on Minorities in Engineering. He has also helped design and fund several major minority engineering organizations including the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, the National GEM Consortium for minority graduate fellowships, and several precollege programs.

“The NAE has a long history of working for diversity and equity in the engineering profession and I am pleased to lead this committee as we focus not only on equity but racial justice,” Pierre said. “There is a much greater awareness of racism today but awareness without action changes nothing. It is my hope this committee can foster greater action with measurable outcomes at the NAE and guide programmatic efforts.”

This new role will add to Pierre’s extensive resume of service after a 50+ year career as an engineer, researcher, administrator, faculty member, and HistoryMaker. At MSU, his academic titles included vice president emeritus and professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

In 28 years at MSU, he mentored more than 200 minority and non-minority engineering master’s and doctorate graduate students in engineering.

He retired from MSU in 2018 as one of the most celebrated members of the MSU College of Engineering – or any engineering college in America. He was the first Spartan Engineer elected to the NAE.

Nationally, Pierre is recognized as the first African-American to receive a PhD in electrical engineering. He is the first African-American appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for Research and Development, and the first African-American appointed Acting Secretary of the Army.

He is considered by many as the country’s principal architect of programs to recruit, retain, and graduate minorities and students from underrepresented populations in the multi-disciplinary fields of engineering.

Read more on Pierre’s NAE Racial and Equity Justice role and his time at MSU.

“My experiences at MSU will be valuable in this task,” Pierre added. “I hope things are going well for MSU and the College of Engineering.”


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Story by Patricia Mroczek