Adapted from “Who Was ‘Big Ed’ Barnette (1949–1991)?”, by George Smith
Edward E. Barnette Jr. was an ambitious leader who set high goals for his life and pursued them with uncommon passion and energy. Barnette chose to study industrial engineering at Purdue University during a time when eight of 10 Black freshmen dropped out of the program every year. As an incoming senior, he and other Black seniors felt a responsibility to help underclassmen. In 1971, Barnette went to Arthur J. Bond, an electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate, and asked for help in creating an organization to assist. Bond wrote a constitution for the group and agreed to serve as the faculty advisor. Then Barnette moved forward and became the founding president of Purdue’s Black Society of Engineers. Among those Barnette was determined to help were six Black freshmen, later to be known as the “Chicago 6,” founders of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
As a professional, Barnette continued to serve, support and embody NSBE’s mission. Barnette was a successful senior corporate executive with Digital Equipment Corporation and, at the same time, was always mindful of his responsibility to inspire, help and mentor the younger Black engineers. For his accomplishments, Barnette was declared one of the “Outstanding Young Men in America.” The Purdue University NSBE Chapter recognized his priceless contributions to the Society’s cause by establishing an annual scholarship in his name. Fittingly, Barnette was the first recipient of the NSBE Golden Torch Award for outstanding academic, industry and community achievements. “Big Ed” was a beloved husband, father, fraternity brother and friend to many, many people. He personified “positive impact” for the Society, and his early vision enabled NSBE to see a brighter day for Black people.
The Professionals Scholarship Program is a grassroots effort that provides scholarships to all demographics of the Society, from pre-college to professional. A key feature of the scholarship program is that nominations come from the Professionals chapters. Chapter leaders, supported by their members, nominate candidates from within their local NSBE community, from pre-college to professional, who embody NSBE’s mission through their impact on the community they serve.
In its inauguration, the scholarship committee named the Professionals’ scholarship program the Edward E. Barnette Jr. Community Impact Scholarship Program. Please take a moment to learn more about Edward E. Barnette, an essential forefather to the founders, and the first NSBE Professional.
NSBE has the power to make a real and continual impact in many ways. When we align our finances with the outcomes we desire, with our beliefs and with NSBE’s mission, results are automatic and immediate. In 2016–2017 we secured $25,000 for five $5,000 scholarships. With nearly half of all individual donations ranging from only $5 to $1,000, the NSBE Professionals succeeded in this amazing inaugural effort.
Our first year of the scholarship program was a true success, one that would not have been possible without the support of NSBE founders Tony Harris, Brian Harris, Ed Coleman and George Smith; our Professional chapters (leaders and general members); and our many donors from around the country. We are very thankful to founder Tony Harris and past National Chair (and now UC Davis Chancellor) Gary May, Ph.D., for their $5,000 contributions.
In the first year of our scholarship program, we impacted NSBE members ranging from seasoned professionals to aspiring high school students. Our winners included: Dia Maria Brown, a graduating high school and an aspiring environmental engineer slated to attend the University of Vermont; Austin Christopher, a graduating high school senior and aspiring civil engineer planning to attend UT Austin or Rose Hulman; Rachel Corine Judge, a chemical engineering senior attending Virginia Commonwealth University, an active campus leader and 2016–2017 NSBE chapter president; Kayla Holston, a senior biomedical engineering student at the University of Virginia who served as 2016–17 vice president of her NSBE chapter and was also active in her campus community; and Deborah Ann Dilworth, a NSBE Professionals member seeking her master’s degree in civil engineering who was a 2016 Regional and Chapter Member of the Year.
These devoted members are active, excelling academically, succeeding professionally and impacting the community. They embody NSBE’s mission and the purpose of the Edward E. Barnett Jr. Impact Scholarship — the IMPACT Scholarship.
The goal of the Edward E. Barnette Jr. Community Impact Scholarship Program is to recognize outstanding contributions to the community along the entire length of the STEM pipeline and, thus, throughout our membership. The scholarship supports the continued educational objectives within the following demographic areas: