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Georgia Tech's First Black Graduate Passes Torch To Granddaughter 59 Years Later

History was made at a university in Georgia.

Roland Yancey and Deanna Yancey

Almost sixty years after Atlanta native and engineer Ronald Yancey overcame barriers to become Georgia Institute of Technology’s first Black graduate, he presented his granddaughter with her diploma as she followed in her grandad’s footsteps, according to CNN.


Deanna Yancey recently took her turn among the few relatives to attend the public research university known as Georgia Tech. She graduated with a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at last Friday’s spring commencement ceremony.


When she traversed across the stage at the university’s McCamish Pavilion, she greeted her grandfather with a smile and hug, and he handed her the hard-earned diploma, which is shown in an Instagram clip.


The older Yancey’s June 1965 achievement was recognized on-campus with a sculpture of him which was dedicated in 2019, according to Georgia Tech.


According to the university, it said it was the first in the Deep South to integrate peacefully and without a court order. Georgia Tech admitted the first Black students back in 1961.


Deanna Yancey, an engineering graduate from Penn State back in 2020, said she didn’t tell her family that she was going to apply for an online master’s program at her grandfather’s alma mater, according to Georgia Tech’s news release.


“When I got in, I got to read the acceptance email to my grandfather,” Deanna Yancey said in the release. “He was so happy. He almost started jumping; he was so excited.”


Of course, Deanna recognizes her grandfather as a trailblazer.


“It’s a different world to be known for something especially as powerful as a movement as he was able to start,” the new graduate said in a video clip played at Friday’s ceremony.


It’s been a long journey for the original Yancey. He was rejected twice from Georgia Tech in the 1960s, and he and his family were told that he “did not fit the Tech model for success,,” according to a 2015 news release from the university.


Still, he attended Morehouse, a historically Black college/university.


“Morehouse did not have an engineering program, though, so in the spring of 1961, Yancey again applied to Tech,” according to the release.


He would go on to be accepted upon the condition that he retook the SAT and passed a summer class, according to Georgia Tech.


“Once on campus, (Ronald) Yancey was cautioned against using public transportation or attending any athletic events for his own safety,” the news release said. “He endured isolation; no one would sit near him in the classroom. He never had a lab partner. He did all of his papers and exams in ink so he could not be accused of cheating or have his work tampered with.”


Yancey also needed to complete graduation requirements not asked of other seniors, who were also exempt from taking final exams. But Yancey spent his last three weeks at Georgia Tech taking a whopping 18 exams in five different classes, according to the university.


“To ensure that he made the grade, he requested and was given an additional six-hour exam for extra credit. He also had to write a 30-page paper on transistor theory,” the release stated.

Yancey defied the odds.

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