Inspiring Black Alumni of Fisk and UIUC

St. Elmo Brady, Ph.D.

B.A., Fisk University, 1908
Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1916

St. Elmo Brady was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. degree in chemistry in the U.S. During his time at UIUC, Brady became the first African American admitted to the chemistry honor soceity Phi Lambda Upsilon and also was one of the first to be inducted into the international science honor society Sigma Xi. He served on the faculty at Tuskegee University (1916-1920), Howard University (1920-27), Fisk University (1927-52), and Tougaloo College, following his retirement from Fisk.

David Harold Blackwell, M.A., Ph.D.

B.A. in Mathematics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1938
M.A. in Mathematics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1939
Ph.D. in Mathematics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1941

David Blackwell made numerous seminal contributions to the fields of game theory, probability theory, information theory and statistics. In 1965, he became the first African American elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2012, he was posthumously awarded a National Medal of Science "For fundamental contributions to probability theory, mathematical statistics, information theory, mathematical logic, and Blackwell games, which have had a lasting impact on critical endeavors such as drug testing, computer communications, and manufacturing."

Carolyn Beatrice Parker, M.S.

B.A., Fisk University, 1938
M.S. in Mathematics, University of Michigan, 1941
M.S. in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1951

Carolyn Beatrice Parker is considered the first African-American woman to have obtained a postgraduate degree in physics. From 1943 to 1947, she worked as one of the few African American scientists on the Manhattan Project. In 1947, she returned to Fisk as Assistant Professor of Physics.

Photo from Who's Who in Colored America: An Illustrated Biographical Directory of Nolable Living Persons of African Descent in the United States, 7th ed. (Christian E. Burckel & Associates, 1950).

John Lewis

B.A., Fisk University, 1967

John Lewis was an inspiring civil rights leader and Congressman who served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His profound contributions to the promotion of civil and human rights were recognized by numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.