First Black Georgia Tech graduate presents granddaughter with diploma from same school 59 years later

Dollita Okine May 09, 2024
According to Georgia Tech, her grandfather's accomplishment in June 1965 was commemorated on campus with a sculpture erected in 2019. Photo Credit: Instagram, Georgia Tech

Ronald Yancey handed his granddaughter her diploma during her graduation from Georgia Institute of Technology, nearly 60 years after he overcame barriers to become the school’s first Black graduate.

A Georgia Tech Instagram video shows Deanna Yancey greeting her grandfather with a hug and a grin before he gave her a well-deserved degree. She graduated with a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering during the commencement ceremony on Friday, joining a select group of relatives who attended Georgia Tech, a public research university.

According to Georgia Tech, her grandfather’s accomplishment in June 1965 was commemorated on campus with a sculpture erected in 2019. The university welcomed its first Black students in 1961, noting that it was the first in the Deep South to integrate amicably and without a court order.

Getting in wasn’t easy for many of the students. According to a 2015 press release from the university, Ronald Yancey was told he “did not fit the Tech model for success” after being turned down twice for admission to Georgia Tech in the 1960s.

He attended Morehouse, an HBCU, in the interim, but as Morehouse did not offer an engineering program, he had to reapply to Tech in 1961. Finally, he was admitted on the condition that he retook the SAT besides completing a summer course.

According to the statement, “Once on campus, (Ronald) Yancey was cautioned against using public transportation or attending any athletic events for his own safety. He endured isolation; no one would sit near him in the classroom. 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.”

The trailblazer was also required to fulfill graduation requirements that other seniors were exempt from, such as completing final exams. Still, he spent his final three weeks at Georgia Tech taking 18 examinations in five classes, according to the university. For extra credit, he asked for and received a six-hour extended exam. In addition, he had to produce a 30-page paper on transistor theory.

Ultimately, Ronald Yancey overcame all odds to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in electrical engineering, 59 years ahead of his granddaughter’s milestone.

Deanna Yancey, who first graduated from Penn State University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, revealed that she had kept her application to her grandfather’s former university a secret from her family.

She recalled, “When I got in, I got to read the acceptance email to my grandfather. He was so happy. He almost started jumping; he was so excited.”

“It’s a different world to be known for something, especially as powerful as a movement as he was able to start,” the new graduate said in a video clip played at the ceremony, according to CNN.

The proud grandpa said in the news release, “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. Deanna’s graduate degree is truly an impressive achievement.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 9, 2024


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates