A son of Nigeria, Prof Emeritus Augustine O. Esogbue has been bestowed with an ‘uncommon honour’ for his service to humanity by a university far away from home in the United States of America.
Having studied in Nigeria at St. John’s College Kaduna and later at the Federal Emergency School of Science in Lagos, Prof Esogbue got a scholarship in 1961 and moved to the USA for an electrical engineering course.
Close to two decades later, Prof Esogbue became the first Black man to become a fully tenured professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and the first African at that level in a top-ranked American engineering research university.
While he was serving out his tenure at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is fondly known as Georgia Tech among alumni and other well-wishers, Prof Esogbue was charged with developing the University’s blueprint for Minority Faculty recruitment.
Georgia Tech has since been ranked the top producer of Black scientists and engineers in the USA.
For his work, Georgia Tech appreciated Prof Esogbue with a pioneer’s award. Georgia Tech will this year celebrate 60 years of black excellence and matriculation.
As part of the yearlong celebrations, Engineer Franklin Rucker one of Georgia Tech’s accomplished alumni suggested that the research university creates the Dr. Augustine Esogbue Pioneer Award.
The Dr. Augustine Esogbue Pioneer Award honours individuals whose exemplary accomplishments, innovation, and leadership have made a significant impact on their profession and the Black community.
Pioneers may not necessarily be Alumni of the Institute but have made significant contributions to the Georgia Tech Community.
The award was presented to Dr. Esogbue on April 1, 2022, at a Leaders and Legends Gala. On the night, which was organized to anchor a year-long celebration of the 60th anniversary of Black excellence and matriculation, Georgia Tech also gave the Ronald Yancey Trailblazer award to Dr. Tawana Miller.
Roald Yancey was the first African American student to graduate from Georgia Tech in 1965.
Guests at the gala included Rucker, the Pioneer Black General of Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transportation Agency (MARTA), and the current Deputy General Manager of Infrastructure at the World-famous Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (ATL).
Speaking after he received his award, Prof Esogbue wondered at the timeliness of the award.
“The award marks my pioneering and leadership activities at Tech, but also my 60th anniversary of the arrival at the US and matriculating at my undergraduate alma mater UCLA (University of California Los Angeles)”. It’s indeed an epochal event,” he said.
He also appreciated the presence of Her Excellency Ambassador Dr. Amina Smaila, the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as Dr. Esogbue still holds his Nigerian nationality dear, despite living and working in the USA for most of his adult life.
“I am so happy to see Nigeria’s Consul General in Atlanta, Her Excellency Ambassador Dr. Amina Smaila, and Madame Jean Brown who were among the honoured guests to witness this epochal celebration by Georgia Tech marking the 60th anniversary of the matriculation and excellence of Blacks at Georgia Tech,” he said.
In 2006, Prof. Esogbue was conferred with Nigeria’s highest prize for academic and intellectual attainment, an award of dignity in the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM).
He is also the Founding Chair, Lagos Atlanta Sister City Committee and Chairman of the Board, The Atlanta Sister Cities Commission Foundation.
In the USA his work includes being one of two university lecturers selected to serve as an expert on a safety panel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA is an independent agency of the United States government whose main job is space exploration.
In February 2006, Dr. Esogbue received the NASA Public Service Medal in recognition of his distinguished contributions to the space exploration agency.
Esogbue’s research interests include dynamic programming, fuzzy sets, decision-making, and control in a fuzzy environment. He is also into operations research with applications to socio-technical systems such as health care, water resource management, and disaster control planning. He was the Director of the Intelligence Systems and Controls Laboratory.
In addition to his research, he taught courses in dynamic programming, stochastic operations research, engineering design, and neuro-fuzzy control. He was (and remains) considerably involved in several civic activities in Atlanta such as the Leadership Atlanta Development Corporation, and the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc.
Prof Esogbue went to Georgia Tech in June 1972 as an Associate Professor with a joint appointment with the Health Systems Research Center. In June of 1977, he was promoted to Professor with tenure. He retired from Georgia Tech in October 2010 and received the title of Professor Emeritus in December 2012.