Black History Month focuses on the struggles and contributions of African Americans over the history of the United States. It is appropriate to highlight African American leaders who have a connection to Farmingdale State College.
FSC is rightly proud of its place in recognizing diplomat and civil rights leader Ralph Bunche and a Long Island’s civil rights icon, Delores Quintyne. Both have places named for them here on our campus, and their lives and careers should be a lasting part of our institutional memory. Perhaps less well known to the campus community is that FSC presented an honorary degree to Katherine Johnson, an accomplished mathematician who calculated the path of many of NASA’s space flights, including its first human spaceflight in 1961.
Ralph Bunche – In 1950, Dr. Bunche became the first African American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his crucial part in gaining agreement on the 1949 Armistice Agreement for the Middle East. Bunche had a remarkably wide impact on America and the world. He became an honored diplomat and was part of the U.S. delegation that in 1946 helped launch the United Nations. In 1946, he was selected as under-secretary-general for the U.N. while contributing to the civil rights movement and African American scholarship. In 1934, he was the first African American to earn a doctorate in Political Science and then became a Howard University faculty member helping create its Political Science department.
In 1973, Farmingdale State College first dedicated the space now known as Ralph Bunche Plaza in his honor. The site was rededicated in 2013 with the addition of the fountain. In 2016-17 flags representing the home countries of FSC’s international student population were incorporated into Ralph Bunche Plaza to recognize the national origin of Farmingdale graduates. The flags serve to highlight Bunche’s place as an ambassador to the world, celebrate our diversity, and bring added color and visual appeal to the inner campus.
Delores Quintyne– A community activist and labor and civil rights pioneer in the Town of Babylon and across Long Island, Ms. Quintyne has been a trailblazer for civil liberties and equal housing opportunity. She co-founded the Suffolk County Congress of Racial Equity and served as chairperson of the organization. Her achievements include calling attention to, and ultimately improving, the deplorable living conditions of migrant workers at Long Island duck farms. Delores Quintyne was instrumental in locating a new Babylon Town Hall annex in North Amityville as part of a 40-year effort to revitalize the neighborhood. The annex, which houses the Town’s Department of Human Services, is named for her late husband, Irwin.
The many honors and awards bestowed on Delores Quintyne include the Town of Babylon Trailblazer for Civil Rights Award, the Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Achievement Award, the Women of Distinction Award from New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre, and the Suffolk County Shero Award given by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Long Island Chapter.
In June 2021, Conklin Hall — a center for student activities — became Delores Y. Quintyne Hall at a campus ceremony.
Katherine Johnson – Dr. Johnson began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a forerunner of NASA, with other African American women in 1953. The women, known as the West Computers, analyzed data and performed computations vital to the space program. Dr. Johnson also confirmed the computations needed for the first flight to orbit the Earth as well as the calculations required to time the rocket launch of the first mission to the Moon and the lunar landing. Her work and that of the West Area Computing team are the subjects of the film Hidden Figures.
Dr. Johnson graduated from college at 18 and was one of the first three African Americans enrolled in a University of West Virginia graduate program. She was the first woman in NASA’s flight research area to receive credit for a published research report. Katherine Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and NASA’s Computational Research facility is named in her honor.
Dr. Johnson had received plenty of awards and accolades, but until FSC’s graduation ceremony on May 21, 1998, no one had ever honored her with a doctorate. The citation presented by the State University of New York at Farmingdale read as follows:
You have lifted our hearts and minds to the stars. Your genius in mathematics and physics helped obliterate physical barriers and greatly contributed to placing the first American astronaut in space. You confronted the obstacles imposed by the forces of Nature and helped launch our country into the space frontier. For your contribution as a pioneer in aerospace technology and your continuing pursuit of excellence in education, the State University of New York at Farmingdale proudly confers on you, Katherine Johnson, the prestigious Doctor of Laws degree, ‘honoris causa’.
John Nader President
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