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Mrs. Yvonne Y. Clark, P.E., a ‘woman of firsts,’ leaves behind rich legacy

Black History Month
Mrs. Yvonne Y. Clark, P.E., a ‘woman of firsts,’ leaves behind rich legacy

by PRIDE Newsdesk

Dr. Yvonne Young “Y.Y.” Clark

The family of Professor Y. Y. Clark, P.E. is saddened to announce the death of the distinguished pioneer for African American and women engineers. Clark passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday at the age of 89 at her Nashville residence. She was the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Howard University, the first woman to serve as a faculty member in the College of Engineering and Technology at Tennessee State University (TSU), and the first woman to earn a Master’s degree in engineering management from Vanderbilt University. A year following her college graduation from Howard University in 1951, ‘Y.Y.,’ as she was known professionally, integrated the Society of Women Engineers, which boasts more than 37,000 members throughout the United States.

Affectionately called ‘TSU’s First Lady of Engineering,’ Clark taught mechanical engineering for 55 years in the College of Engineering and Technology at Tennessee State University, where she also served as Mechanical Engineering Dept. Head twice. At TSU, she acted as Freshman Advisor for all incoming students to the College of Engineering. Current Dean of the Engineering School Dr. S. Keith Hargrove was one of Clark’s former students.

In 1947, Clark was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky.When it was discovered she was African American, the school rescinded the scholarship due to its segregation policy. Following a threat of a lawsuit by the Young family, the University of Louisville paid for Clark to attend HBCU Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she earned top honors. She was the only woman in her graduation class of 300 engineering students to earn a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. Due to the sexism of the day, Clark was not allowed to march with her male classmates and therefore received her diploma in the office of the university president.

After receiving numerous job rejections due to her gender, Clark worked at Frankford Arsenal Gauge Labs, in Philadelphia, before moving to the Electronic Tube Division when she was 25 for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Montclair, New Jersey, where she designed electrical equipment with 18 other male colleagues. Following her 1955 marriage to William F. ‘Bill’ Clark, Jr., Clark returned to the South and visited the Ford Glass Plant in search of a job. After being told, “We have no use for you,” she asked TSU if they needed an engineering professor and became the first woman to serve on the faculty of the College of Engineering and Technology at Tennessee State University.

In the 1960s, when TSU was not a year round university, Clark would return to work with the government during the summers. During these summers she worked as an aerospace engineer (Flight-General) at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama investigating the Saturn 5 Rocket Booster engines hot spot issues. Clark also worked at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas on the moon rock samples container for transporting moon rocks back to Earth.

In 1970, Clark became the first African American woman to receive a Master’s degree in engineering management at Vanderbilt University. She returned to the Ford Glass Plant for the second time where she was hired as the first woman engineer at the plant and joined the design team to rebuild the float glass furnace. After completing her work at Ford Glass Plant she returned to TSU and continued her teaching until her retirement in 2011. After retirement, Clark was granted ‘Professor Emeritus’ status by the College of Engineering.

Throughout her lifetime, Clark has received numerous awards including Women of Color Technology Award for Educational Leaders; Distinguished Engineering Educator Award; Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers’ Distinguished Service Award; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Nashville Alumnae chapter’s Educator of the Year Award; and the President’s Distinguished University Award from TSU for 50 years of loyalty, dedication and determination during her academic career.

Georgianna Yvonne Young Clark was born on April 13, 1929 in Houston, Texas to Milton Young, Jr., M.D. a general practitioner and surgeon and Hortense Houston Young, a library scientist and journalist. Y.Y. was a Fellow and a Life Member of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). At TSU, she chartered Student Chapters for the following Professional Organizations: SWE, ASME, and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Y.Y. was a charter member of the first Tennessee State chapter of the mechanical engineering society Pi Tau Sigma the National Mechanical Honorary Society, Alpha Delta Chapter. She was a TSU link for the ‘Order of the Engineer.’

Clark was a Charter Member and Life Member of the Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Hendersonville Area Chapter of The Links, Inc.She was a member of The American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and a licensed Professional Engineer. She served on the Executive Committee of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and was a member of the Music City Chamber of Commerce. She volunteered at the Eighteenth Avenue Family Enrichment Community Center.

Y.Y. Clark was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 39 years Bill Clark. She is survived by her brother, Dr. C. Milton Young III, M.D. and his wife Waltraud of Louisville, Kentucky; her children, Milton Hebert Clark, Sr., daughter Carol Yvonne Lawson; son-in-law Eric Lawson; and grandchildren Paris Nicole Lawson and Milton Hebert Clark, Jr.

Viewing will be held on February 1, 2019 from 9 am till noon with a visitation with the family held from moon till 2 pm at New Generation Funeral Home located at 2930 Murfreesboro Pike, Antioch, Tenn. 37013. Prior to the Celebration of Her Life Service at 6 pm on February 1, at Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, 901 Acklen Avenue, Nashville, Tenn.37203—another visitation with the family will be held from 4-5 pm. The Links, Inc. Service will start at 5 pm, and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Omega-Omega Service will begin at 5:30 pm. Interment will be at noon, EST, at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Y.Y. Clark Annual Engineering Scholarship Fund via a check sent to Darlene G. Harris-Vasser, assistant director of Donor Relations, TSU Foundation, 3500 John Merritt, Box 9542, Nashville, TN 37209. Phone: 615-963-9764, ext. 5794.

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