Two buildings on the N.C. A&T State University campus initially named after problematic figures will be renamed to honor two notable alumni! Get the full story from the N.C. A&T official release below.
The North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Board of Trustees (BOT) voted Friday to name two iconic campus buildings after alumna and former chairwoman of the N.C. A&T Board of Trustees, Velma Speight, Ph.D. ’53, and alumnus and past College of Engineering Dean Joseph Monroe, ’62 Ph.D., respectively.
The buildings, which were formerly called Morrison Hall and Cherry Hall, had their names stripped by the BOT almost exactly one year ago after discoveries were brought to light that their namesakes were aligned with white supremacy before and during their respective tenures as governor. A&T leaders determined those names did not reflect the university’s values, standards and principles.
Now the buildings will bear the names of two of the most revered and accomplished alumni in A&T history.
“Naming these campus buildings for such distinguished and well-deserving alumni as Drs. Speight and Monroe is our honor and pleasure. The dedication, service and impact they’ve had on this campus, their respective fields, and our nation is beyond significant,” said Ken Sigmon, vice chancellor for University Advancement and President of The Foundation for North Carolina A&T State University, Inc. “As a leading, institution of higher education, A&T will make every effort to ensure our campus, including buildings, reflects ideals and individuals of the highest quality and standards.”
Lovingly known as “Miss Aggie Pride,” Speight has demonstrated strong commitment, dedication and cultivation of her alma mater, as well as the field of education, for over 45 years. Beginning her career as a high school teacher, she expanded her reach professionally and civically through numerous promotions, appointments and high-level positions, including specialist in civil rights, state supervisor of guidance and assistant state superintendent for the Maryland State Department of Education.
Speight served as chairwoman of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Department of Education and coordinated its graduate program in guidance and counseling and won the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Teacher of the Year Award. She has also taught at Johns Hopkins University, Loyola College and the University of Maryland College Park. In 1991, Speight earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Ghana and Senegal, West Africa.
In addition to serving as past chairwoman for the A&T Board of Trustees, Speight took the reins as director of Alumni Affairs in 1993, serving until her retirement in 1997. During her retirement, she has continued to serve the university and its alumni chairing executive-level committees and participation and involvement in other areas of significance.
The university celebrated her in 2006 with an honorary Doctor of Humanities at the fall commencement where she also served as keynote speaker. The North Carolina A&T University Foundation, Inc., later named the main lobby of the Alumni-Foundation Event Center in her honor.
Speight earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and French from A&T and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park.
Monroe received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, English and French from A&T before moving on to Texas A&M, where he completed M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science, becoming the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in that discipline in the United States.
Following receipt of his degrees, Monroe received commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and was appointed an associate professor of Computer Science in the U.S. Air Force Academy. He held various positions at the academy including dean of the faculty, chair of the department of Electrical Engineering, and chair of the Department of Computer Science. Monroe went on to become the first African American appointed a full professor at the Academy.
In 1987, Monroe joined the faculty at Fayetteville State University, serving in various academic and administrative positions. He returned to A&T in 1991 and was named Ronald E. McNair Endowed Professor and chair of the department of Computer Science. In 2000, Monroe assumed the role of dean of the College of Engineering serving until 2009. Under his leadership, the College of Engineering expanded its footprint, increased its funding and hired the most tenured African American engineering professors in the United States.
Monroe was awarded the U.S. Department of Defense Superior Service Medal for Superior Service and Teaching in 1987, and the U.S. Air Force Legion of Merit Service Medal for Outstanding Teaching and Research in 1974, 1978 and 1982.