Engineers conference focus on Leadership, teamwork, inspiration

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More than 40 years ago, the concept for the Black Society of Engineers was conceived. With the purpose to establish a student organization to help improve the recruitment and retention of Black engineering students, today the concept has matured into an organization totting a membership of close to 30,000.

Currently known as the National Society of Black Engineers, it is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the country. NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, success professionally and positively impact the community.”

FineLeader
A FINE LEADER—President and CEO of Chester Engineers, Inc., Robert O. Agbede receives the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Dyinkansola Dina NSBE Pittsburgh Chapter convention speakers and workshop chairperson.

In 1975, 48 students representing 32 schools attended the organizations first national meeting.

This year NSBE’s 38th annual convention held in Pittsburgh included a mix of approximately 9,000 attendees from their more than 310 collegiate, pre-collegiate and technical professional and Alumni chapters in the U.S. and abroad. This year’s theme was “The NSBE Blueprint: Leadership, Teamwork, and Inspiration.”

Geared to provide its membership with the pipeline necessary to continue to strive for success in their academics, profession, and community, the four days were filled with informative, educational and entertaining activities that showcased the NSBE culture, achievements of the membership, local and nationwide talent, and Black-owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area.

While welcoming conference participants during the kickoff ribbon cutting ceremony, the Honorable Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive expressed his excitement to have the conference in Pittsburgh. “This is a great opportunity for our city to shine. “We have a great tradition of engineering in our community dating back 100 years to the industrial revolution as we lead the charge in steel making coal, glass and alumni and other industries. We are loaded again in energy.” He mentioned that there are more than 1500 engineering jobs in the region within a 25 mile radius.

“This is a great place to come, a great place to visit and a great place to raise a family,” he said. “We are proud of our community and glad to have so many distinguished future leaders, scientist, and engineers. People that will lead this country into some of the energy technologies, life science technologies, and innovations that we cannot even imagine right now.”

Also on hand opening the conference wasformer Ambassador Andrew Young, founder of the Andrew J. Young Foundation and a past Georgia Congressman and Atlanta mayor. Encouraging what he viewed as a good looking bunch of young people, he pointed out that our future depends on engineers. “These are the people that are going to shape the world which we live in. If you are going to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, heal the sick and set at liberty those that are oppressed preachers can’t do it. It takes engineers,” he said. He also pointed out that when anything is and goes wrong with this world it is going to take an engineer to fix it. “Engineers got a lot of work to do. You are the ones that are going to have to shape and lead the world in which we live and the rest of the 21st century.”

Barrington Irving, the youngest person, and first African-American pilot, to fly solo around the world said it takes mentors, organizations like NSBE and corporations to foster the kind of growth and innovation needed for young people to develop. “I am glad to see so many beautiful and positive Black faces doing so many great things.”

Organizers of the event considered the two- day Career Fair as a key component of the convention. More than 200 of the nation’s largest employers had recruiters on site to meet prospective employees, collect resumes, conduct interviews and, in some cases, hire convention attendees on the spot.

In addition, representatives of more than 60 academic institutions worked as exhibitors at the convention’s Graduate School Fair and College Fair, recruiting students for their graduate and undergraduate programs, respectively.

With support from some of the nation’s largest private sector and government employers, other significant events included speakers that addressed and conducted workshops that included Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of Naval Operations; Rodney C. Adkins, senior vice president of IBM Systems and Technology Group; Ben-Saba Hasan, senior vice president of Strategic Services ISD, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Tammee L. Thompson, vice president of Global Security and Fire, Johnson Controls, Inc.; and Major General Melvin G. Spiese, United States Marine Corps.

Carnegie Mellon graduate J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president, Science and Technology at the United Technologies Corp. spoke during the opening session as well as Robert L. Johnson, founder and chair of RLJ Development and founder and former chair of Black Entertainment Television.

Two of Pittsburgh’s luminaries, Robert O. Agbede, president and chief executive officer of Chester Engineers, Inc., and Alaine Allen, director of the Pitt Engineering Career Access Program at the University of Pittsburgh were recognized during NSBE’s top honors: the NSBE Golden Torch Awards.

The ceremony recognized individuals and organizations that exemplified NSBE’s ideals of academic excellence, professional success and dedication to improvement of the Black community. Edward T. Gilliam, 92 years of age was awarded the Golden Torch Legacy Award. The awards were hosted by Pittsburgher, actor, educator, activist and entrepreneur Lamman Rucker.

Calling Pittsburgh the city that Chester built, Agbede stated in his remarks that his company has been involved with most of the major projects within Pittsburgh. Pleased to receive the award and thanking those that have helped him along the way he said he is looking toward the future. His goal is to become the first African-American billionaire engineering firm by 2020. “We are pressing toward the mark,” he said.

The conference, which is calculated to have brought more than $14.2 million to the region, is slated to be held in Indianapolis, close to the organizations birth place, Perdue University next year.

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