Speech by Thomas Grumbly

(Former Assistant Secretary of DOE)

Announcing the DOE Samuel P. Massie Chairs of Excellence in the Environmental Disciplines (AMIE Conference, September 23, 1994)

Good evening. Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary was sorry that her schedule prevented her from being with you this evening, but for my part, I'm pleased and honored to be able to fill in for her. We at the Department of Energy have recognized the need, and the value, of forming partnerships with the private sector and with educational and research institutions in order to successfully carry out our work. We're very pleased to be able to participate in the partnerships and initiatives of the Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering Third Annual Conference.

Recognition of Corporate Participants

The first thing I'd like to do this evening is take this opportunity to recognize the companies who are making this partnership effort possible: Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, Black and Decker, Boeing, Commonwealth Edison, Cummings Engine, DuPont, EDS, Eli Lilly, and General Electric. There are a number of other Fortune companies that have supported AMIE, such as Raytheon, and I would like to thank all of them as well.


Through the Office of Environmental Management's partnering with AMIE, we are demonstrating that we're serious about our commitment to increase the opportunities for minorities to enter fields related to our mission to remediate a half century's worth of contamination throughout our weapons production complex. Increasing those opportunities includes supporting AMIE's goal to enhance the engineering curriculum, facilities, and resources at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And this isn't just an idle, "noblesse oblige" kind of exercise for us: the need for environmental remedia tion and restoration has increased the need for high quality engineers, and that need will grow dra matically through the end of this century and well into the next century. So our motivation in this partnership is somewhat selfish. The Department of Energy is currently 20 percent of the world market in environmental remediation, and to be successful, to become a world leader in environmen tal technology, we need "the best and the brightest" you can send us, as soon as you can send them to us!

Background: Trends

Minorities will make up an increasingly large share of the U.S. population and labor force in the years ahead. These changing demographics reflect the valuable resource pool that we must tap to fill the growing professional needs in engineering and environmental remediation. We need the help of all of you in the audience to enable the Department of Energy to craft a work force that will more thoroughly reflect the skills and diversity of American society.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 15 percent of the current U.S. population is African-American, but less than 4 percent of engineering professionals are African-American. Only 35 percent of all minority engineering students graduate, compared to nearly 70 percent of white students. Even in instances where whites and nonwhites have similar high school academic back grounds, nonwhites are still less than half as likely to receive their degrees.

But this is changing, and we want to work with AMIE to help accelerate the pace of that change. Since 1986, minority freshman enrollment in all engineering schools increased by close to 50 per cent, and enrollment of African-Americans has risen by more than 40 percent. It's up to all of us to see to it that enrollment opportunities and graduation and employment opportunities continue to grow.

Challenge to the Audience

Those opportunities can't just magically appear at the college level, or even the high school level. We must encourage students, starting in kindergarten, to learn more about science and be inquisitive about their environment. Today' s kindergartner will be a member of the college class of 2012. That five - or six-year-old has no use for an opportunity that shows itself only 12 years from now, at the end of high school he or she needs opportunity and support starting now, in order to be the engi neer that can solve our environmental problems in 20 years. So I challenge all of you the corpora tions, the colleges and universities, particularly those of you who will be participating in the Chair of Excellence program (and I'll get to that in a moment) I challenge you to reach down to that kindergartner and help open doors for him or her now. As I said before, we at the Department of Energy have a bit of selfish motivationwe have a growing need for science and engineering skills to solve our environmental problems but establishing a partnership and a support network that reaches down to our youngest children benefits us all, benefits the whole nation. I think Derek Bok summed it up nicely when he said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Presentation: Background

A key element in developing quality African-American engineers for the future is to enable the universities and colleges to recruit and retain as faculty leading engineers in the United States. That's why we are awarding grants totaling $14.4 million over the next five years to establish a DOE Chair of Excellence, to be known as the Dr. Samuel P. Massie Chair of Excellence, to emphasize and nurture the environmental disciplines at nine institutions. This Chair of Excellence is an important element in a three-party partnership through AMIE, intended to increase both the quality and the quantity of academic and applied experiences for minority engineering students.

This professorship will be a five-year grant intended to expand the goals and objectives of AMIE by providing scholastic excellence in the engineering arena so that minority students have an increased opportunity to become highly qualified engineers. We hope and believe that this will help expand not only the academic opportunities for the students, but also the opportunities for scientific and corpo rate interaction already established by AMIE initiatives.

This partnering will increase the quality and quantity of minority engineering students as well as enable this nation to meet the challenge of taking the lead in engineering and environmental tech nologies. These students will, I hope, come to the Department of Energy and private sector compa nies where new technologies are being developed. What we are doing here is providing the opportunity for our nation's youth. I'm confident that they will seize that opportunity and take part in im proving the environment, creating jobs, and stimulating economic growth for the benefit of all Americans.

Presentation: The Nine Awardees

I look forward to working with the nine participants in the Chair of Excellence program, as I look forward to a continued and successful interaction with AMIE. The nine HBCU Schools of Engineering that will be participating in this program are:

  • Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida

  • Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia

  • Howard University, Washington, D.C.

  • Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

  • North Carolina A&T State University, our host for this conference in Greensboro, North Carolina

  • Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas

  • Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee

  • Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama

At this time, I'd like to ask the Deans of these nine universities to stand and be recognized. I would also like to ask Mr. Marvin Bembry, Executive Director of AMIE, to come up and accept our symbolic check (this is our way of saying, "the check is in the mail" on behalf of the nine awardees.

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