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Virginia Tech To Honor School’s First Black Graduate

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech will honor the university’s first Black graduate at an event Nov. 2.

Charlie Yates earned a degree in mechanical engineering with honors in 1958. He became a researcher at Johns Hopkins before returning to Tech in 1979 to teach mechanical engineering and then aerospace and ocean engineering until 2000.

He served four years on the school’s board of visitors, beginning in 1983.

Yates was the first Black undergraduate to receive a degree from a historically White university in a former Confederate state. He died in Norfolk in August at 74.

Yates entered Tech at a time when Black students couldn’t live, eat or socialize on campus.

A residence hall on campus is named after Yates and Irving Peddrew, the first Black student admitted to Tech in 1953.

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