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U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, Representing the 30th District of Texas

CONGRESSWOMAN EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON RECOGNIZES AFRICAN-AMERICAN ACHIEVEMENT IN COMPUTER SCIENCE

Feb 12, 2009
Press Release

 

Congressional Resolution recognizes first African-American to receive Ph.D. in computer science, Clarence “Skip” Ellis

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson today introduced a concurrent resolution recognizing that African Americans have achieved parity in computer science bachelor’s degrees.  In 2006, African Americans constituted 12.4 percent of computer science bachelor’s degree recipients, roughly equivalent to the percentage of African Americans in the United States population, 12.8.

The resolution also recognizes Clarence “Skip” Ellis, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in computer science.  Dr. Ellis received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1969.

“February is Black History Month, and there is no better way to celebrate than to recognize the accomplishments of the African Americans throughout the country who have earned degrees in computer science,” Congresswoman Johnson said.  “I applaud the hard work of the African American scientists in all disciplines throughout the country, and I will continue to work to promote the achievement of parity in all scientific fields.”

The full text of the resolution follows:

Whereas the National Center for Education Statistics reports that since 1997, the number of black students receiving baccalaureates in computer science has more than doubled, from 2,463 to 5,875;

Whereas the percentage of blacks among computer science bachelor’s degree-holders has been rising since 1998, and in 2006, blacks made up 12.4 percent of the candidates receiving those degrees, a proportion almost equal to that of blacks in the United States population, which is 12.8 percent;

Whereas in other areas such as engineering, blacks do not have parity, because they earned only 5 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering in 2006;

Whereas overall, the number of students receiving degrees in computer science has shrunk by more than 12,000 over the past two years for which the federal government has data: from 59,488 in 2003 to 47,480 in 2005;

Whereas computer science has been described as the bedrock of a plethora of future technologies;

Whereas the National Society of Black Engineers has more than 900 collegiate members who have or are pursuing computer science degrees;

Whereas Clarence "Skip" Ellis, born in 1943 in south Chicago, Illinois, was the first African-American to attain a Ph.D. in computer science;

Whereas when he was 15, Dr. Ellis took a job at a local company and worked the “graveyard shift,” during which he guarded and educated himself about computers, which in 1958 were very uncommon;

Whereas Dr. Ellis won a scholarship at matriculated at Beloit College in 1960, and he discovered that he was the only African-American on campus;

Whereas Dr. Ellis graduated from Beloit College in 1964 with a double major in math and physics, and he went on to earn a Ph.D. in computer science in 1969 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he worked on one of the world’s first supercomputers, the Illiac 4;

Whereas Dr. Ellis was a trailblazer who symbolizes perseverance and success in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges;

Whereas the off shoring of jobs, and the H-1B visa program - which allows non-U.S. citizens in high-skill professions to live in the U.S. as temporary workers - are contributing to salary stagnation in domestic technology jobs;

Whereas to remain competitive, computer scientists must continue to innovate, learn new skills, and think creatively;

Whereas enrichment programs for middle-school students are of critical importance to retaining their interest in math and science, and an example of a successful program is the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) Camp, sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers and included the participation of 600 third, fourth and fifth graders;

Whereas the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies are well-positioned to increase the diversity of our nation’s federal science and technology workforce through a variety of research and educational programs:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress recognizes the achievement of parity among African Americans in degrees conferred in computer science and celebrates this victory among persons of color, especially during Black History Month.

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U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and a senior member of the Science Committee. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas, which, includes Downtown Dallas, Fair Park, Oak Lawn, Old East Dallas, Pleasant Grove, & South Oak Cliff; all of Balch Springs, DeSoto, Hutchins, Lancaster & Wilmer and parts of Cedar Hill, Duncanville, Ferris, Glenn Heights and Ovilla.