Yvonne Young Clark (1929 – 2019), was a pioneer for African American and female engineers.

Clark was the first woman to do many things both in her career and regarding civil rights. With a passion for engineering, she quickly conquered both educational and racial barriers.

Her accomplishments set her apart and defined her as a woman of firsts:

  • The first woman to obtain a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University in 1951
  • The First African American member of the Society of Women Engineers in 1952
    • Member of the Executive Committee
  • The first woman engineer hired as an instructor at Tennessee State University (TSU) in 1955
    • Department Chair (1965 – 1970, 1977)
  • The first woman to receive a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from Vanderbilt University in 1972
  • And many more

When she was prohibited from taking mechanical drawing classes in high school, she instead enrolled in an aeronautics course and joined the Civil Air Patrol, later becoming the squad leader. During World War II, with her interest in flying, Clark wanted to ferry U. S. bombers to Europe. This led her to her career in Mechanical Engineering.

Clark worked numerous engineering jobs during her summers off from teaching. She worked at Frankfort Arsenal on recoilless weapons and at NASA where she worked on the receptacles that Neil Armstrong used to return moon specimens to Earth. In addition, she conducted extensive research projects including the Department of Energy’s “Experimental Evaluation of the Performance of Alternative Refrigerants in Heat Pump Cycles” where she served as the main investigator. Through her dedicated work, she earned many awards in her career. She was awarded “Mechanism of the Year” by the TSU Student Chapter of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Others include Women of Color Technology Award for Educational Leadership, by U.S. Black Engineers (1977), the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award (1998), and the Distinguished Service Award by the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE) (2001).

Yvonne Young Clark died on January 27th, 2019, at the age of 89. Her legacy lives on through the Y.Y. Clark Engineering Student Scholarship at Tennessee State University which supports female, Mechanical Engineering students.