In 1971, on the campus of Purdue University, six young men decided to form an organization to assist in the retention of Black engineering students. The organization would provide a support group for the students and allow them to succeed together.
John Logan, Brian Harris, George Smith, Edward Coleman, Anthony Harris, and Stan Kirtley, all of which became know as the “Chicago Six”, formed the Society of Black Engineers (SBE). The sole Black faculty member in the engineering department, Arthur Bond, a Ph.D. candidate in Purdue’s school of electrical engineering, provided these men with the mentorship and encouragement that was needed to get the organization started. During this time, the number of African-American students at predominantly white institutions nationwide increased, while the graduation rate of these students did not. In light of this, the Chicago Six decided to extend what was started at Purdue University to the entire nation. Thus, in 1974, the Society of Black Engineers became a national body.
In 1975, at the first National Conference, which was held at the first National Headquarters–Purdue University, 48 students representing 32 schools met and chose the organization’s national symbol, wrote a rough draft of the national constitution, divided the organization into six Geographic Regions, elected John Cason as the first National Chairperson, and selected a name for the group–the “National Society of Black Engineers” (NSBE).
In 1978, NSBE began to receive national coverage by participating in the National Academy of Science’s Conference, “Minorities in Engineering.” Under the leadership of the first female national chairperson, Virginia Booth, NSBE grew from five chapters to approximately 88 officially chartered chapters throughout the country. She was also the first person to serve two terms as national chair (1978-80). During this time, NSBE also held a voting position in the United Nations (UN). The UN assigns voting privileges to organizations on a yearly basis. NSBE’s vote was required on special topics.
As the organization expanded, NSBE decided to establish a new national headquarters in Washington, DC in 1982. In 1983, the first NSBE Scholarship, the Leroy Calendar Scholarships, were awarded at the 9th Annual National Conference. In 1985, the society’s computer network, NSBENET, was developed, and in 1986, the Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed NSBE at the 12th Annual National Conference in Boston, MA. In 1989, NSBE’s budget exceeded one million dollars. By 1990, NSBE’s membership had increased to over 7,000 students in over 180 chapters. The first international chapter since the 70’s was chartered by McGuill University in 1991. Further expansion of the organization in 1991 moved its national headquarters from DC to its present location in Alexandria, VA. In 1992, the first European chapter was founded in London, England. Also during this time, the national budget neared two million dollars.
To learn more and participate, check their site : NSBE Site