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Philip Alexander

physicist, educator, and academic administrator, was born in Pocahontas, Virginia, the son of Harry P. Branson, a coal miner, and Gertrude Brown. In 1928, after several years at his local elementary school, Herman enrolled at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., one of the nation's preeminent black secondary schools. He was encouraged in this move by a young black physician, William Henry Welch, who practiced in Pocahontas and who rented lodgings from young Branson's grandmother.

At Dunbar, Branson was introduced to studies in Latin, advanced mathematics, and other disciplines to which he would not have been exposed in his local high school. After graduating as valedictorian in 1932 he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh with a view to studying medicine partly because his great uncle had been trained as a physician there Branson completed the premedical program in two years and still found time ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

physicist, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and educator was born in Washington, D.C., the second of four children to George Jackson, a post office employee, and Beatrice Cosby, a social worker. In elementary school Shirley was bused from the Jacksons' largely white neighborhood in northwest Washington to a black school across town. After the 1954Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling and several years of “white flight” transformed the area into a predominantly black neighborhood, she attended the local Roosevelt High School, where she participated in an accelerated program in math and science. Jackson took college-level classes in her senior year, after completing the high school curriculum early, and she graduated as valedictorian in 1964 As I was growing up she recalled I became fascinated with the notion that the physical world around me was a world of secrets and that science as ...

Article

Robert M. Dixon

physicist, science and engineering administrator, and college president, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the first of two sons born to Almar C. Massey, a manual laborer for the Hercules Chemical Company, and Essie Nelson, an elementary school teacher and principal. Massey received support and encouragement not only from his parents but also from a cadre of excellent African American teachers, who, as a resolt of restricted employment opportunities in rigidly segregated Mississippi, pursued teaching with passion and dedication. Massey attended the Sixteenth Section Elementary School in Hattiesburg, where his mother taught, and the Royal Street High School in the same city. He excelled in school and entered Atlanta's Morehouse College on a Ford Foundation scholarship after completing the tenth grade. As a student at Morehouse, Massey, like Martin Luther King Jr. and other African American men who attended the college between 1940 and 1967 ...

Article

Thomas R. Williams

mathematician and educator, was born in Waycross, Georgia, the son of William Arthur Pierce, a Methodist minister, and Fannie McGraw. Orphaned at an early age, Pierce was raised by his maternal uncle, Joseph McGraw, in Waycross. Following studies in sociology and business and participation in varsity football, Pierce in 1925 received a BA degree from Atlanta University. He accepted an assignment as assistant coach at Texas College in Tyler, Texas, but upon arrival he learned that he would also be required to teach mathematics. Four years of teaching mathematics proved so agreeable that Pierce adopted it as his profession. He returned to school at the University of Michigan to earn an MS in Mathematics in 1930, and he became professor of mathematics at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Pierce married Juanita George in 1933; they had one child.

In 1938 Pierce earned a ...

Article

Ann Zeidman-Karpinski

mathematician and university president, was born Dolores Margaret Richard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Lawrence Granville Richard, a worker in the chemical division of the Exxon refinery, and Margaret Patterson. Spikes attributed her academic success to her father's love of reading and her parents' insistence that she and her sisters attend college. Her father attended primary school and got his general equivalency diploma (GED) after his children graduated from college. Her mother had a little more formal schooling, having completed tenth grade. Spikes attended Southern University in Baton Rouge on a scholarship and graduated in 1957 summa cum laude with a bachelor of science. The following year she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana on a fellowship and earned a master's degree in 1958. Just weeks after graduating she married Herman Spikes a fellow mathematician and a classmate from Southern University They had ...