This afternoon, I was inducted into the Edward Bouchet Graduate Honor Society at the annual Bouchet Society Conference held at Yale University. Being a member of the society is a tremendous honor that I take very seriously. I am proud that my university is one of the 18 university partners with Bouchet Society chapters. I am delighted that I was nominated to apply to join and selected for the honor. I am thrilled to be associated with Dr. Edward Bouchet’s name!
Dr. Bouchet was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree in physics. He was the sixth person to earn a doctorate degree in that discipline in the western hemisphere at that time. He accomplished this feat at Yale University in 1876 by age 24! He must have been extraordinarily talented to even be allowed to enroll in the universities (Johns Hopkins and Yale) he studied being a Black man in the 19th century. He must have also been equally extraordinary as a young man to have gone through what I can only imagine he must have, being a Black student in an Ivy League institution in the 19th. Despite that, Dr. Bouchet was never able to get a faculty position including at Yale. Instead he taught in high school without access to research equipment, collaborators, and library. It is a loss for society his talent was never given the opportunity to flourish in bigger and much impactful ways in his chosen discipline.
As a member of an honor society named after him, my personal resolve is to embody academic and personal excellence in all that I do and my way of being, just as he did. It is also to exemplify scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for those underrepresented in higher education. As a Black woman of African origin, I am no stranger to the concept of marginalization simply for being who I am. His story, however, is an added reminder that it is not for lack of talent or applying oneself that some communities remain underrepresented in higher education or elsewhere. Unevolved and unenlightened practices and systems prevent them from full or any participation at all. To name two that I am most familiar with: racism and sexism.
When reflecting on the oath I pledged to mark my membership of the honor society officially, I found it to be almost spiritual and open to one’s interpretation. In the context of what I said in the above paragraph, I took it to mean this. Evolved consciousness is a requisite for a society so all can have an opportunity to excel. We get there through peaceful means of respect and love for one self and others.
It is a wonderful thought to which to aspire. Love and respect for one self and others.