Trailblazer for women and African-Americans in engineering passes away

(Photo credit Society of Women Engineers website)

(Photo credit Society of Women Engineers website)

Hayden Gee

Yvonne Y. Clark, the first woman to earn a master’s degree in Engineering Management at Vanderbilt, passed away on January 27th, 2019 at her home in Nashville. She was also the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Howard University, as well as the first female faculty member in the College of Engineering and Technology at Tennessee State University.

Clark was born in 1929 in Houston, TX, but relocated to Louisville, KY where she spent her childhood. After graduating from high school, Clark went on to earn her degree at Howard. She was the only female in her graduating engineering class of 300. Mrs. Clark was not allowed to walk at graduation, however, and had to receive her degree at the president’s office.

The year after graduating from Howard, Ms. Clark joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She served on the society’s executive committee and was elected to its College of Fellows in 1984. SWE honored her with the Distinguished Engineering Educator award in 1998.

Clark taught in the mechanical engineering department at Tennessee State University for 55 years, serving as chair of her department twice.

Clark attended Vanderbilt to receive her masters in Engineering Management while continuing her job at TSU. She received her degree in two years, graduating in 1972. “All records indicate she was an outstanding engineer and scholar,” said Associate Dean of External Relations of the Engineering School Christopher Rowe. “We are so fortunate she chose to pursue her graduate education at Vanderbilt.”

Mrs. Clark earned numerous honors and awards for her work as a pioneer for women, specifically African-American women, in the field of engineering. TSU named a scholarship in her honor to continue her legacy.