Logo: University of Southern California

John Brooks Slaughter Joins the Viterbi Faculty

Distinguished Engineer-Educator also has a joint appointment in the Rossier School
Andrea Bennett
January 25, 2010 —

Dr. John Brooks Slaughter has joined USC as Professor of Engineering and Education

Dr John Brooks Slaughter MAIN
John Brooks Slaughter
Slaughter has had a remarkably distinguished career, which began as an electrical engineer and includes leading two universities and heading the National Science Foundation (NSF) as its first African American director, among many other accomplishments.

Throughout his career, Slaughter has been both a pioneer and an intrepid advocate for diversity – in higher education and in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In his new position, Slaughter will be looking at the intersection between engineering and education, with a focus on what has become his lifelong quest of increasing underrepresented minority participation in the STEM fields.

“I was pleased to see strong interest in both the School of Education and the School of Engineering to combine their interests and work together. That’s rare in higher education on most campuses. These two deans have a common interest,” Slaughter said. “A truly effective STEM effort requires participation by science faculty, engineering faculty and faculty in the school of education to truly have an impact. Any one entity alone would not be able to put together a strong and sustainable program.”

Dean Yannis Yortsos of the Viterbi School expressed his delight in having Slaughter join his faculty.

“The nation urgently needs to increase the recruitment and the retention to engineering of students from all backgrounds. His impact in this effort will be immediate and significant both at the Viterbi School and at the national level,” Yortsos said. “Professor Slaughter is the ideal bridge of education and engineering and we cannot be more pleased with his appointment.”

Dean Karen Symms Gallagher of the Rossier School said Slaughter’s professional experience and personal passion for increasing diversity in STEM education is an ideal fit with her school’s mission.

“The Rossier School has had a longstanding focus on diversity and on improving urban education locally, nationally and globally,” Gallagher said. “With Professor Slaughter’s expertise in advancing minority participation in the studies of science and engineering, and our shared commitment to these efforts with Viterbi School of Engineering, we all stand to have a more profound impact in this area than ever before.”

In 1956, Slaughter began his career as an engineer at General Dynamics Convair, which he left in 1960 to work as a civilian at the United States Naval Electronics Laboratory Center in San Diego. He worked for the Navy for 15 years, becoming director of the Information Systems Technology Department. Slaughter went on to become director of the Applied Physics Laboratory, a research and development facility at the University of Washington in Seattle, until his appointment as assistant director of the Astronomical, Atmospheric, Earth and Ocean Sciences directorate of the NSF in Washington, D.C. in 1977.

In 1979, Slaughter became academic vice president and provost of Washington State University, but left for his historic appointment in 1980 as the first African American to direct the National Science Foundation (NSF). He returned to higher education in 1982 as chancellor of the University of Maryland, where he made major advancements in the recruitment and retention of African American students and faculty.

Slaughter took the job of president of Occidental College in 1988, and transformed the school during his 11-year tenure into the most diverse liberal arts college in America. He taught courses in diversity and leadership for one year as Irving R. Melbo Professor of Leadership Education at USC before accepting the position of president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), whose mission is to increase the number of engineers of color, in 2000.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Hall of Fame of the American Society for Engineering Education. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and the Tau Beta Pi Honorary Engineering Society. He is the founding editor of the international journal, Computers & Electrical Engineering.

Slaughter holds honorary degrees from more than 25 institutions, and has received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Award in 1997; UCLA Medal of Excellence in 1989; the first U.S. Black Engineer of the Year award in 1987; the NAE Arthur M. Bueche Award in 2004; UCLA Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1978; NSF Distinguished Service Award in 1979, among many others.

Slaughter holds a Ph.D. in engineering science from the University of California, San Diego (1971), a M.S. in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (1961), and a B.S. in computer sciences from Kansas State University (1956).