BESAC Communication Officer's Message
In this issue of the BESAC digest we honor Oakland native African American Cal Alumni, olympian, and mechanical engineer, Archie Franklin Williams. He is a reminder to all of us to volunteer and give back in our local community. Sometimes the brightest stars are closer than we think.
BESAC Communications Officer
Cal Alumni Association Update
August 14th 11 - 12:30
Save the date!
The Black Engineering and Science Alumni Club of UC Berkeley, a charter club of the California Alumni Association, is hosting our 3rd annual Summer Welcome Event for incoming Freshman and Transfer students. Meet fellow incoming students, current students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
CAL Black STEM History Highlights
Drake High School in Marin County renamed for African American Mechanical Engineering Alumni, Archie Franklin Williams, class of 1939
Archie F. Williams
from First Scholars of Color, by BESAC Historian Sheila Humphreys
"Archie Williams (1915–1993) was the College of Engineering’s second African American student. A mechanical engineering major, Archie grew up in Oakland and transferred to Berkeley in 1935 from San Mateo Junior College. He aspired to aeronautical engineering. In his oral history recorded in 1988, he said: “I think that it was destined that I go to Cal. I could stand on my front porch on Telegraph Avenue and look at the Campanile at Cal, so I knew what Cal was all about. We used to go up, even before I got out of high school, and sneak into where the track guys were practicing and crawl under the fence and watch the real athletes perform. I was kind of born a Cal Man.”
As an undergraduate, Archie Williams competed in track alongside Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and won a gold medal in the 400-meter race. After graduating in 1939, Williams could not land an engineering position. Instead, he worked at the Oakland airport, where he followed his lifelong interest in airplanes: “I couldn’t get a job anyplace else, so I went to work for the fellow who ran the flying school, and I worked for him as a kind of ramp rat, gassing airplanes and wiping windshields.”
In September 1941, Williams was hired as an instructor to teach civilian pilots and also some of the first Tuskegee Airmen at the Tuskegee Army Flying School. After the war, Williams was sent to UCLA to study meteorology and later studied aeronautical engineering in the Air Force. Commissioned and working as a meteorologist, he flew combat missions in the Korean War, and retired as a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force in 1964. Williams then taught math and computer science at Sir Francis Drake High School in Marin County for twenty years.
Drake High School was renamed for Archie Williams in May, 2021."
Three amazing EECS alumnae were featured on the Berkeley 150W website in celebration of Black History Month 2021 : Arlene Cole-Rhodes (Ph.D. '89, advisor: Shankar Sastry), the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Berkeley; Melody Ivory (M.S. '96/Ph.D. '01, advisor: Marti Hearst), the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in Computer Science from Berkeley; and Valerie Taylor (Ph.D. '92, advisor: David Messerschmitt), the first Black Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.
Go to the Berkeley Black Graduate Engineering and Science Students Facebook page for highlights and updates.
Go to the Black Engineering and Science Student Association website for highlights and updates.
The College of Chemistry is pleased to announce that a new lectureship has been established and named for Professor of the Graduate School William Lester. The lectureship is intended to welcome distinguished underrepresented minority (URM) scholars to present their research and engage in discourse about their experiences and challenges of becoming scientists. READ MORE ...
Phot0 - UC Berkeley, College of Chemistry Press Release Image: Professor William Lester in his office at the College in the 1980s. Photo: College of Chemistry.
Black Engineering and Science Faculty (BESF)
There is currently a historic number of Black Engineering and Science Faculty at Cal. Learn more about Black STEM faculty by checking out the Black Engineering and Science Faculty slides