Governor Cooper Honors North Carolina’s Black STEM Leaders During Black History Month
“North Carolina is a stronger state thanks to the contributions of many talented Black leaders, including those who work in STEM fields and who deserve recognition,” Governor Cooper said. “As we celebrate their achievements, we must also work to break down barriers and recruit the next generation of leaders by ensuring everyone has access to a sound, basic education.”
“In highlighting and celebrating an extraordinary group of Black North Carolinians in STEM, the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission joins Governor Roy Cooper and his team in recognizing these outstanding Honorees. The breadth and depth of STEM fields represented by these Honorees demonstrates the lasting impact these Black North Carolinians have made and are making in the areas of science, research, technology, business, education, government, and policy. Their contributions both in the past and in the present have opened the way for future generations to continue this work,” said Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson, Chair of the NC African American Heritage Commission and Dean of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities at Shaw University.
The NC African American Heritage Commission (NCAAHC), a division of the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, recognizes the honorees of this month in partnership with Governor Cooper.
On January 7, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 246. This Order creates next steps in the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and creates economic opportunities for North Carolinians across the state, especially in underserved communities. Executive Order 246 underscores the importance of emphasizing environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to a clean economy. Recognizing that North Carolina’s STEM fields are strengthened by diversity, the Order directs state agencies to identify strategies to increase workforce diversity in clean energy sectors and to work with employers, schools, colleges and universities—including HBCUs—to expand clean energy youth apprenticeship programs.
In June 2020, Governor Cooper signed Executive Orders 145 and 143, which established the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force and the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. These Task Forces have recommended ways to address the disparities in North Carolina health care and economic institutions for communities of color that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as strategies to make the criminal justice system more just and equitable
Leaders in the STEM field do critical, innovative work focused on helping their communities.
This year’s honorees include:
- Dr. Joan Barber of Durham County – Retired Vice Chancellor for Student Life at NCSSM in Durham
- Deja Perkins of Wake County – Co-organizer, Black Birders Week and #BlackAFinSTEM
- Sen. DeAndrea Newman Salvador of Mecklenburg County – Founder, Renewable Energy Transition Initiative; Founder, JouleScout; NC State Senator (39th District)
- Mary Elliot Hill of Camden County – One of the earliest Black women to become a chemist; contributed to the development of plastics.
- Dr. Ida Stephens Owens of Columbus County – One of the first three African Americans to enroll in Duke’s Graduate School; first Black woman to receive her PhD from Duke; career scientist at NIH, focusing on the genetics of human disease and drug-detoxifying enzymes.
- Ajulo Othow of Granville County – Founder of EnerWealth Solutions.
- Professor Bob Powell of Guilford County – Associate Professor at NC A&T University.
- Riza Jenkins of Orange County, Chapel Hill – 2021 NCSEA Board Member and Chair of ED&I Committee.
- Dr. Rita Joyner of Durham County – Senior Advisor for NCSEA Board.
- Marshall Cherry of Pitt County – Roanoke Electric Coop CEO and Chief Operating officer (Interim).
- William J. Barber III of Orange County, Chapel Hill – Member of the DEQ Secretary’s EJ advisory board, Founder and President of The Rural Beacon Initiative.
- Michael Regan of Wake County – EPA Administrator.
- Dr. Crystal Harden of Gates County – Morehead Planetarium Science Center.
- Dr. Goldie Bird of Durham County – Executive Director of Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, Professor of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest University.
- Dr. Shaundra B. Daily of Durham County – Professor of Practice in Electrical and Computer Engineering & Computer Science, Duke University. Levitan Faculty Fellow, Special Assistant to the Vice Provosts, Duke University.
- Gina Loften of Wake County, Craven County – Board Director, Global Executive, Speaker, and Author.
- Abi Olukeye of Mecklenburg County – Founder, Smart Girls HQ (raisingsmartgirls.com).
- Dr. Alicia Nicki Washington of Durham County, Mecklenburg County – Professor of the Practice of Computer
- Science, Duke University.
- Maria Thompson of Wake County – State Chief Risk and Security Officer.
- Alisha René Galloway Johnson of Durham County – Technical Core Team Lead, Black Girls CODE (Durham). Research Institute for Scholars of Equity Program Coordinator & Adjunct Professor at North Carolina Central University.
- Dr. Marjorie Lee Browne of Durham County – Famous for work as a mathematics educator and mentor to secondary school math teachers; early adoption of academic computing; statewide influence on mathematics education.
- Willie Deese – EVP of Merck & Co, President Merck Manufacturing Division, A&T alumni.
- Karen LaVert of Durham County – CEO of TechInventures, Co-Chair of EDPNC.
- Timothy Humphrey – Vice President, IBM Chief Data Office and Senior State Executive for IBM in North Carolina. Senior Location Executive for IBM in Research Triangle Park.
- Dr. Jamila Simpson – Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence, College of Sciences, NCSU. First African American to earn an undergrauate degree in Meteorology from NCSU; first Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence for NCSU’s College of Sciences.
- Desmond Wiggan, Jr. – Co-Founder and CEO, BatteryXchange.
- Tony L. Mitchell, Ph.D., Lt. Colonel, USAF Ret. – First full-time African American student to earn a PhD in
- Electrical and Computer Engineering at NCSU.
- Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner – Known for Inventing the adjustable sanitary belt.
- Sarah Boone – Known for inventing an improved ironing board for women’s garments.
- Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair of Guilford County – Known for his career as a NASA astronaut.