Philip Graden

Lily D. McNair – The First

This Black History Month, USTelecom is reflecting on present-day African-American trailblazers who are charting the path to next-generation technologies and inspiring future generations to harness broadband-fueled opportunity…inspired innovators like Dr. Lily D. McNair.

On July 1, 2018, Dr. McNair began her tenure as Tuskegee University’s eighth president. The significance? Dr. McNair is the first-ever female president to take the helm of the engineering powerhouse. Make no mistake, her appointment to lead the charge of the distinguished HBCU was well-deserved… being a “first” is a recurring theme in her life.

Let’s back up. Dr. McNair’s trailblazing path did not occur by dint of circumstance. She’s always been passionate about making an impact within her own community, and her work ethic and dedication positioned her for greatness at a young age.

Growing up in a diverse neighborhood and household during the 1950’s and 60’s, Dr. McNair was the first in her family to go to college. She was among the first African American women to attend Princeton University. Dr. McNair often credits her success to her high school guidance counselor, a first-generation student who encouraged Dr. McNair to swing for the fences. She then became the first tenured African American woman in the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia in 1999. So, becoming the first female president of Tuskegee University, the first black college to be designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark, was nothing out of the ordinary because “first” is how she rolls.

Recognized among the “Top 35 Woman in Higher Education,” Dr. McNair leads a historically black institution mentoring and providing hands-on career training for the next generation of engineers, reminding each student they too can be the “first” to trail-blaze his or her own path. Tuskegee, a STEM HBCU machine, is a top producer of African American engineers creating new and innovative opportunities.

Here at USTelecom, we salute Dr. Lily McNair for envisioning a future for herself as an African-American woman leader, and for future leaders and innovators. Her commitment to inspire, educate and elevate is a vision we look to build on as we continue to invest in the networks that connect people so they too can chart their own course and become a “first.”