After a distinguished 50-plus-year career in education, Eugene DeLoatch, founding dean of the Clarence Mitchell School of Engineering at Morgan State University, is being recognized for his singular contributions to diversifying engineering education.

Eugene DeLoatch, founding dean of the Clarence Mitchell School of Engineering at Morgan State University.
Eugene DeLoatch, founding dean of the Clarence Mitchell School of Engineering at Morgan State University.

Among other tributes, the engineering icon was named the recipient of the 2017 Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA), which will be conferred Feb. 11 at the annual BEYA STEM Global Competitive Conference in Washington, D.C. DeLoatch retired in June.

“Morgan is among the nation’s top producers of Black engineers, and that is due largely because of one man, Eugene Deloatch,” Morgan State President David Wilson said in a statement. “His record of success nationally in increasing diversity in the field of engineering is a matter of great pride for him personally and for Morgan State University. We join with many hundreds of his former students whose lives he has touched over the years to express our gratitude for his dedication and service.”

DeLoatch was at the helm of Morgan’s engineering school for 32 years since its founding in 1984. Wrestling with multiple challenges, including the historic underfunding of HBCUs in the state, DeLoatch developed Morgan’s engineering school into a top-class program, which is ranked fourth nationwide in the number of undergraduate degrees conferred upon African Americans. DeLoatch himself is lauded for producing more Black engineers than any individual in American higher education history.

Prior to joining the Baltimore HBCU, DeLoatch spent 24 years with Howard University in Washington, D.C. His last assignment there was as chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering, a position he held for nine years.

In a July interview with US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine, DeLoatch said when he left school in 1959, less than half of 1 percent of engineers in the United States were African-American. The desire to change those statistics influenced his career, he said.

“It was about wanting to expose as many young people to a field little known, as I see it, in the African-American community –a very critical field for the progress of this nation,” he said. “I have no regrets taking the route of higher education and engineering as a public matter, and doing it in an environment, where I could impact the thought processes and the decisions to become an engineer in the historically Black colleges and universities in our country.”

Today, about 5 percent of the nation’s engineers are Black, and that is in large part to DeLoatch’s efforts, according to many. Among them is President Obama, who sent the educator a letter earlier this year congratulating him on his retirement and recognizing him as “best of the best” in the field of engineering.

“By breaking through barriers and extending possibility, you’ve set a powerful example,” the letter read. “Through your endeavors to shape a future that reflects our diversity as a nation—one in which all our young people have the chance to pursue their passion in any field of study, including engineering—you’ve helped bring about progress, now and  for generations to come.”

In 2002, DeLoatch became the first African-American president of the American Society of Engineering Education. He also previously served as secretary of the board of directors, Technology and Economic Development Corporation of Maryland. He earned dual bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering from Tougaloo College in Mississippi and Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. He also holds masters and doctorate degrees in bioengineering from Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Michael G. Spencer, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University, has been appointed as the new dean of Morgan’s engineering school, effective Jan. 4.