During the late 1960’s, Purdue University was experiencing a troublesome reality. About 80% of black freshmen students in the engineering program were dropping out. To remedy this crisis, two undergraduate students made a proposal to the dean in 1971. They believed that creating a student organization for black engineering students would improve retention and help recruit more students. With the dean’s approval, Arthur J. Bond (the only black faculty member on the staff) served as an advisor to this idea and to the students. The students that made this proposal was Edward Barnette and Fred Cooper.
In the beginning, this student organization was called the Black Society of Engineers (BSE) with Barnette as the first president and Bond continuing to encourage the new society into a successful future. As the society gained momentum in 1974, Anthony Harris, Brian Harris, Stanley L. Kirtley, John W. Logan, Jr., Edward A Coleman, and George A. Smith were the young men who actively participated in this newfound momentum and would be known as the “Chicago Six,” the founders of NSBE.
With the continued success and positive impact of the society, Anthony Harris changed the name to Society of Black Engineers (SBE) and felt encouraged to spread the concept of BSE nationally. He reached out to 288 deans of accredited engineering programs around the country for their support towards the Society’s efforts to. Harris received 80 responses, but since many schools had organizations like SBE, only 48 students represented 32 schools at the first national meeting, which was held at Purdue university between April 10th-12th, 1975. During the meeting, it was voted that the name of the society will be changed to NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) and its first president was a Purdue student named John Cason. Many important milestones also took place during this meeting, including choosing the official national symbol you see today, the rough draft of the constitution was written, and the national regions were created. The success of the society continued as NSBE became a 501c nonprofit organization in the State of Texas in 1976 and between 1978-1980, NSBE gained its first female national chair Virginia Booth.
To this day, NSBE is the largest student managed organizations in the country with 500 active chapters nationally and abroad dedicated providing many opportunities to alumni/technical professionals and pre-college/college students.