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NACME Board Liaisons Offer Examples for Graduates

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NACME Board Liaisons Offer Examples for Graduates
Dr. Olester Benson and Gene Washington Highlighted in Inspirational Media Clips


White Plains. N.Y. — In keeping with its role of mentoring underrepresented minorities in the STEM field, The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc., (NACME) has posted three current news items on its web-site  to offer inspiration for graduating seniors.

The first clip features a recent NPR interview with Dr. Olester Benson, a Corporate Research Scientist at 3M and longtime NACME Board Liaison. In the interview entitled “The Importance of Failure in Science,” Dr. Benson joined with NPR science correspondent Joe Palca, and Frank Bates, a professor of chemical engineering and materials at the University of Minnesota, in a lively discussion. Beyond asserting that failure is part of science, the radio guests explained that failure is essential to scientific inquiry.  

“Failure is important because failure is what propels us,” said Dr. Benson. “The problem is that many people fail and quit. So we have to learn how to persevere.” Dr. Benson later amplified this point by discussing his work mentoring high school students at a school in North Dakota. “The students are afraid to fail, or even ask an unusual question, because they don’t want to look foolish in front of their friends,” added Dr. Benson. “I tell them they need to be like Curious George. He was curious about everything and he wasn’t shy about it.”

There are also links to a video and a radio interview on a new documentary entitled “Through the Banks of the Red Cedar,” about Gene Washington, a former NFL great and NACME Board Liaison. In advance of the release of the film, Gene Washington and his daughter, documentary film-maker Maya Washington, discuss Gene’s decision to leave the segregated south in 1964 to be drafted onto one of the first integrated college football teams, the Michigan State University (MSU) Spartans.

During Washington’s years at MSU, the Spartans won back to back Big Ten and National Championships. “When teams such as MSU started winning championships, southern colleges and universities knew they had to integrate if they were going to be competitive,” said Maya Washington. “As the wider community began routing for black players, it had a very positive impact on the civil rights movement. The film also takes a look at how far college and pro football have come in the past 50 years.”

In 1967, Gene Washington would be one of the first draft picks of the Minnesota Vikings and would be part of the Vikings 1969 NFL Championship team before moving on to the Denver Broncos in the early 1970’s.

After retiring from football, Mr. Washington worked in human resources at 3M Corporation for many years, wherein he took a leadership role in recruiting engineers and scientists. “I am grateful for the time I had at 3M and the work of recruiting engineers,” said Washington. “My advice to students is to do your best at your sport, but also concentrate on your academics. For most athletes, a professional career in sports won’t last forever and you need something to fall back on.”

“Olester and Gene both overcame significant challenges to achieve outstanding career goals,” added Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail, President and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Inc., (NACME). “We are proud to have them as part of our extended NACME family and we are happy to share their words of wisdom with our network of future engineers.”   

For more information about the film, visit


GeneandMayaWashington web

Maya and Gene Washington


About NACME: Since its inception in 1974, NACME has stayed true to its mission: To ensure American competitiveness in a flat world by leading and supporting the national effort to expand U.S. capability through increasing the number of successful African American, American Indian, and Latino young women and men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.

NACME Scholars hold leadership positions in industry, medicine, law, education, and government. With funding from corporate, foundation, and individual donors, NACME has supported more than 24,000 students with more than $142 million in scholarships and support, and currently has more than 1,300 scholars at 51 partner institutions across the country. NACME is also implementing a middle school through workforce entry strategy to increase the proportion of underrepresented minority students in STEM disciplines.





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