Shirley Ann Jackson

First woman and African American to serve as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995). In 1999, Jackson was hired as the 18th president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, also the first woman and African American to hold that role. She renewed her contract in 2010.(1)

Born 1946, Washington, D.C., As a child growing into adulthood, Jackson’s family placed a high importance on her education. At the age of 8, Jackson developed a passion for science, knowledge, and accomplishment conducting experiments such as those on the eating habits of honeybees.(2) She graduated as valedictorian from a segregated Roosevelt High School and then joined the first African-American students to be accepted at MIT in 1964.(3) Earning her bachelor’s degree in 1968, Jackson went on to receive her doctoral degree in Theoretical Solid State physics from the same university in 1973, being the first Black woman to do so in the history of MIT.

Her experiments with theoretical physics are responsible for many telecommunications developments including the touch tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting, and the fiber optic cables that make overseas phone calls crystal clear.(4)

In 2014, United States President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Jackson as Co-Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. The Board assesses issues pertaining to the quality, quantity, and adequacy of intelligence activities; the effectiveness of organizational structure, management, and personnel; and the performance of all agencies of the federal government engaged in the collection, evaluation, or production of intelligence, or the execution of intelligence policy.(5)


Aim for the stars, so that at least you can reach the treetops. – Shirley Jackson(6)



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