Good Morning to ya Obots!
Today’s pioneer is the first African American to receive a degree in oceanography.
Roy Overstreet was the first African American to graduate from the University of California at Riverside, earning a degree in Physics over 53 years ago. After obtaining a master’s degree, he became the country’s first Black oceanographer, working for nearly 30 years with the NOAA tracking oil spills and nuclear material in oceans.
When asked how he chose UC-Riverside, his answer was:
“I was a very poor student, we had no money at all. I had lost my mother to a long battle with cancer. I went to Valley College in San Bernardino and it was there that I met a physics professor from UCR who told me that UCR would be the best place for me. I decided he was right and for $52 a semester, I enrolled as a junior and went on to graduate.”
During the 2011 Commencement ceremonies for UC-Riverside, Mr. Overstreet was the guest speaker at the annual Black Graduates ceremony and spoke these words of wisdom to the class of 2011:
“Back then, I was the only Black student on campus. I didn’t feel welcome. I spent a lot of time alone, studying in my dorm room way up there on the hill,” he said. “A lot has changed. Looking out there, I see a diverse village of many cultures and ethnicities. I see hope, perseverance and
achievement under those mortarboards.”
Overstreet urged the graduates not to fear the future. “When I received my degree in 1958 the unemployment rate was six percent. Today it’s more than double for African Americans.
At a time when many workplaces are filled not just with glass ceilings, but brick walls, you can’t allow fear to eat away at the confidence it takes to take on new challenges. You’ve got to be fearless.”