NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center
NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Historical Highlights from the University Archives

African-Americans at NC State University
Women at NC State University
Nuclear Engineering at NC State University

African-Americans at NC State University

I didn't come here as a test case or anything; I just want to get an education
-- Walter Holmes (freshman, 1956)
Sunday, October 28, 1956 article from the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader discussing integration at NC State [Chancellor's Office Correspondence, 1891-1991, UA 002.001.064]
African-American representation in the NC State Student body first occurred in the fall of 1953 when, Robert L. Clemons (Electrical Engineering) and Hardy Liston (Mechanical Engineering) enrolled in the respective Graduate Programs at NC State.  Although Liston withdrew after his first semester, Clemons received a Professional Degree in Electrical Engineering in May 1957.
African-American representation among the undergraduate population first occurred in the 
Fall Semester of 1956.  Among the 1267 incoming freshmen were Walter Holmes (Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Option), Irwin Holmes (Electrical Engineering ’60), Manuel Crockett (Electrical Engineering) and Edward Carson (Electrical Engineering ’62) [Photographs from 1957 Agromeck].   Irwin Holmes received further distinction four years later when he was the first African-American to receive an undergraduate degree from NC State.

From freshman to doctor
February 2, 1987 Technician article detailing Dr. Winston’s career at NC State
Hubert Winston became the first African-American to start out at NC State as a freshman and finish as a doctor.  Winston first enrolled in Chemical Engineering as a freshman in 1966, earned his bachelor's degree in 1970, his master's in 1973, and then finished by earning his doctorate in 1975.  Dr. Winston recently retired as an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Women at NC State University

[NC State,Spring 1998]
“Don't become a pilot, become an ENGINEER”
Amelia Earhart to 15 year old Katharine Stinson

Katharine Stinson ('41)[Photograph from 1941 Agromeck] was taking flying lessons at the old Raleigh Airport on US-401 when Amelia Earhart flew in for a visit in the early 1930's. When she told her hero that she wanted to be a pilot, Earhart advised her to become an engineer, a career Stinson pursued in spite of the obstacles that prevented most young women from striving for non-traditional degrees. Stinson was told she must enter as a junior, so she completed 48 semester hours in a year at Meredith (including two summer sessions) in order to attain her goal. Besides being the first woman engineer to graduate from NC State University (in Mechanical Engineering, with an Aeronautical option in 1941), Stinson was also the first woman engineer hired by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, now the Federal Aviation Administration. By the time she retired from the FAA, as Technical Assistant Chief of the Engineering and Manufacturing Division, she had served as the third president of the Society of Woman Engineers and on a presidential advisory committee for aviation safety under Lyndon Johnson.

“I just wanted to be a good engineer...I just did my job and most of the men accepted me.”
[North Carolina State, Vol.56, no. 6, March, 1984]
“One Woman in a Thousand”

October 1921 Alumni News announces the arrival of Lucille Thompson as NC State's first “Co-ed” and 1,000th student to register [Alumni News, Vol. IV, no. 12, October 1921]

In 1921, Lucille Thompson of Wilmington was the first woman to enroll as a “regular” student. She entered the Electrical Engineering department, but in 1923, her senior year, she married and did not graduate.

Photograph from 1923 Agromeck


University Archives Photograph Collection: Campus Facilities & Views, UA 023.005] A decade after Stinson had paved the way, the Engineering Department still had only scant enrollment of women.  The “engineering co-eds” pictured here in 1954 are (left to right) Mary Ellen Short of Brevard, Jane Asbill Land (‘57, Chemical Engineering) of York, SC, and Emily Brown (‘54, Civil Engineering) of Wilmington.

In 1961, Anna Clyde Fraker became the first woman to receive an advanced degree in engineering, when she was awarded her MS in Metallurgical Engineering. She was also the first woman to receive a doctorate in Ceramic Engineering in 1968.

Title pages from Ms. Fraker’s thesis and dissertation from the Special Collections Research Center 
[Special Collections LD3921 Min. Ind. F73] [Special Collections LD3921 Min. Ind. F731]

Nuclear Engineering at NC State University

Uranium “water-boiler” type reactor

Schematic Diagram of Reactor from Clifford K. Beck’s July 5, 1949, “Proposal of a Nuclear Reactor at North Carolina State College” [North Carolina State University, College of Engineering, Dept. of Nuclear Engineering Records, 1950-1980, UA 105.016.003]

In 1950, Clifford Beck, then of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, obtained support from NC State's Dean of Engineering, Harold Lampe, for the idea of building the nation's first university nuclear reactor and establishing the first university nuclear engineering educational curriculum.  Dr. Beck and his team of new faculty successfully met and overcame the challenges of the period after World War II: resistance to an entirely new discipline, the nonexistence of textbooks, and security limitations on information about reactors. Approval was secured to offer the Ph.D. degree, in addition to the MS and BS degrees.

The early student body consisted of a number of highly qualified U.S. Air Force officers North Carolina State's pioneering experiment in nuclear education became the center of attention of the United States and the world. In the early days of nuclear reactor research and development, the curricula were highly science oriented.  More recently, greater emphasis has been placed on engineering applications. Research by the faculty and graduate students in basic subjects such as nuclear physics and reactor theory has been supplemented by studies of many engineering topics and radiation applications.
-- Excerpts from Raymond L. Murray’s “A Brief History of NC State University Nuclear Engineering"

Pictorial Plan of the Raleigh Research Reactor Building taken from the “Further Design Features of the Nuclear Reactor Program at North Carolina State College” report prepared by Dr. Clifford Beck, et al in January, 1952.


  Nuclear Historic Landmark 
Photographs showing various stages in the construction of  the first Nuclear Reactor
[University Archives Photograph Collection: Campus Facilities & Views, UA 023.005]
NC State's first Nuclear Reactor was designated a Nuclear Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society.  NC State's reactor was the first atomic installation in the world devoted solely to the peacetime application of nuclear fission in an educational program.  The reactor was built in 1953, scaled up in 1957 and 1960, and finally deactivated in 1973 to make way for the PULSTAR reactor.

Undergraduate Curriculum in Nuclear Engineering
1950 [North Carolina State University, College of Engineering, Dept. of Nuclear Engineering Records, 1950-1980, UA 105.016.002]


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