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Georgia Tech’s First Black Graduate, Ronald Yancey, Presents Granddaughter With Diploma For Master’s Degree In Electrical And Computer Engineering


It was a special day for Ronald Yancey, Georgia Institute of Technology’s first Black graduate.

CNN reports Yancey presented his granddaughter Deanna Yancey with her diploma for a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at the school’s commencement ceremony held on Friday, May 3, 2024.

This marked a full-circle moment for several reasons. Yancey had applied to her grandfather’s alma mater to partake in their online master’s program after she received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Penn State University in 2020.

“I didn’t tell my family I was applying, so when I got in, I got to read the acceptance email to my grandfather,” Deanna said in a news release. “He was so happy. He almost started jumping; he was so excited.”

Deanna’s feat was made possible because Ronald had helped to break down racial barriers at the university. He endured various hardships during his time at the school. From the start, Ronald had faced two rejections from the school, and the explanation given to his family was he “did not fit the Tech model for success,” a 2015 news release mentions.

He would wind up at Morehouse College studying math and physics. However, the school did not have an engineering program, so his interest in Georgia Tech resurfaced, and he was admitted to the school in the spring of 1962 after meeting its requirement to retake the SAT test and pass a summer chemistry course.

While attending the university, Ronald was advised to avoid public transportation and to not attend athletic events because it could put him in danger on campus. The Georgia Tech news release describes his experience on the campus as isolating and shared that he was informed he wasn’t expected to make it to graduation.

“No one would sit near him in the classroom,” the press release notes. “He never had a lab partner. He did all of his papers and exams in ink so he could not be accused of cheating or have his work tampered with.  He was made to understand that no one expected him to graduate.”

Deanna said in the latest news release, “Even now, he’ll talk about some of the things he went through, but he won’t tell us everything because he knows it would be upsetting to our family.”

Despite the odds being stacked against him, Ronald walked the stage in 1965, and he was later honored with a sculpture dedicated to him in 2019 on campus, CNN notes.

Today, Ronald feels delighted to return to the stage once again, but this time to recognize the hard work of Deanna.

“We are extremely proud that Deanna took the initiative to select her field, to quietly and quickly apply, arrange her curriculum, and follow through with the completion of her matriculation,” Ronald expressed to Georgia Tech. “Deanna’s graduate degree is truly an impressive achievement.”

Deanna added, “It signifies the passing of a baton from one engineer to another. But more importantly, the struggle that he saw is not the struggle that’s going on now.”

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