Arthur J. Bond
Dean, School of Engineering and Technology
Alabama A&M University
BSEE ’68, MSEE ’69, PhD ’74
For his ground-breaking contributions to the recruitment of minority engineering students nationally, his pivotal role as a founder of NSBE, and his outstanding leadership in higher education, the College of Engineering is proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Arthur J. Bond.
Finding His Calling
“I’ve always been interested in electrical engineering,” says Arthur Bond. “I’ve always liked to tear apart anything and everything.”
Bond’s natural instincts for electrical engineering began at an early age. “I got the worst whipping of my life when I tore apart our big old Stromberg Carlson radio looking for the little man inside talking,” he remembers, laughing. “I couldn’t sit down for weeks, because that was the only radio we had.”
Bond first came to Purdue by lucky chance. “My high school principal’s son was interested in engineering at Purdue,” Bond says. “One day they were going to come for a visit to campus, and they asked me if I wanted to come.”
In addition to the National Merit Scholarship that he received through the Pullman Foundation, Purdue offered him a Special Merit Scholarship that would allow him the funds to be able to attend.
After only a couple of years, Bond was forced to drop out of Purdue due to a softball injury. “After I got well, I went and joined the Army, because Vietnam was looming on the horizon.” Bond says. “I figured if I went ahead and enlisted, I could get some additional training in electronics, thus furthering my education; and, I would have additional financial benefits through the GI Bill.”
The Civil Rights Movement at Purdue
When Bond returned to Purdue in 1966, the nation was at the height of the civil rights movement. “Those summers of the mid-’60s were when the civil rights movement was at its peak,” Bond remembers. “Cities were burning. We had a march on, and we laid bricks on the front steps of the executive building. We wanted to see a better Purdue.”
Bond’s efforts for equality were met favorably by Purdue. “The National Academy of Engineering had taken up the mantle that it was time that there were more blacks and women in engineering,” Bond explains. Fred Hovde, Purdue’s president at the time, was active in trying to get more blacks in engineering at Purdue and across the country.
In his service as a veteran and as a student, Bond had already shown leadership in organizing Purdue’s black students. Hovde asked him to serve on a steering committee, which organized the first national effort to increase minority participation in engineering.
Part of the work needed at Purdue was to create a place where students could bond and study in a group setting. “Purdue gave us a house. They allowed us to move in and decorate it and call it a Black Cultural Center,” Bond says. “Eventually it evolved into the one that we know now.”
Another development was a way for black engineering students to meet and help each other. “When you would go to class,” Bond remembers, “you would never see another black student from the day you entered Purdue until you graduated. So we didn’t know what other black student was studying engineering.” Using the ASME, IEEE, and SWE constitutions as guides, Bond—at that point a graduate student—wrote a constitution and, working with several undergraduate students, began the Society of Black Engineers at Purdue with the University’s blessing.
“It was much later on,” Bond says, “that this same society decided that we would go national because we were having good luck at Purdue. So we sent letters out to all the engineering schools and asked everyone to come to Purdue to form an organization. And that’s how the National Society of Black Engineers was formed.”
Working Toward Equality
After graduating from Purdue, Bond worked in business for several years and then returned to academia to continue to work for equality in education.
He first went to Tuskegee University, where he helped the university to get reaccredited.
He then joined Alabama A&M. The 1890 land-grant university was involved in a desegregation lawsuit with the State of Alabama for funds that had been withheld from the institution’s engineering program through remnants of the old “separate but equal” laws (Plessey v. Ferguson).
“I was offered the challenge,” Bond says, “and I said I thought that we could win a case in court and get us engineering.”
After Bond rewrote the case, the university was able to get a retrial. “The court said that A&M deserved engineering, and they told the State of Alabama that engineering exists at Alabama A&M,” he says. In 1995, the judge gave A&M nine years to build a program and affirmed that whatever program existed after that time would have to be funded by the state.
“So we had to push and grow as fast as we could,” Bond says. “We had to do everything from scratch.” A&M’s efforts bore fruit in 1997, when they were able to offer the first engineering courses. In 2000 A&M was accredited effective to 1998.
Bond says that his work is still not done, however. Today he is working not only to get master’s and PhD programs for A&M but also to raise the percentage of minority engineers to reflect the population of the country.
“We are being fairly successful now, but there is still work to be done,” he says. “Where are we going? We’ve got to make the doors open. We’ve got to make the schools just as good as we can.”
|2000||Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer, Purdue|
|1992–||Dean of Engineering and Technology, Alabama A&M University|
|1989||Head of Electrical Engineering Department, Tuskegee University|
|1984||Principal Engineer, Bendix Engine Control Systems|
|1980||Member, Technical Staff, RCA and Allied Signal|
|1979||Associate Professor, Purdue University, Calumet Campus|
|1974||Assistant Professor, Purdue University|
|1971||Co-Founder, Society of Black Engineers (now NSBE)|
|1969||Coordinator, Program for Disadvantaged Students, Department of Freshman Engineering, Purdue University|
BSEE ’68, MSEE ’69, PhD ’74, Purdue University