NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is mourning the passing of Professor Yvonne Young “Y.Y.” Clark, the first female faculty member in the College of Engineering.
Clark died Sunday, Jan. 27, at the age of 89. A mechanical engineer, she broke many barriers and shattered stereotypes to become one of the most-admired educators in the field.
“Mrs. Clark’s influence and nurturing as a mechanical engineering student is one of the reasons I decided to pursue an academic career, for which I am forever grateful,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering and a former student of Clark’s.
In 1956, Clark became the first female engineer hired as an instructor at the then-Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University, earning the title of “TSU Lady Engineer.” She rose through the ranks, becoming an associate professor, and twice heading the Department of Mechanical Engineering for a total of 11 years.
At TSU, Clark did not only distinguish herself as an outstanding teacher in a male-dominated workplace, she became a champion for students by ensuring that they received the appropriate help they needed to better understand the material. She frowned on professors who were quick to tell students they were wrong without explaining the error and how to correct it.
“I enjoyed helping students,” said Clark in a 2016 interview when she was a Homecoming honoree. “Most teachers don’t understand, in my opinion, what to do for a student to learn. You can’t ‘brow beat’ them, but you can help them by making sure they understand the subject you are trying to teach.”
Clark retired from TSU in 2011 after 55 years of service. But she left a legacy that continues on through the many students she influenced.
“Y.Y. Clark was a trailblazer, amazing professor and mentor that inspired us to pursue our dreams and be the best engineers we can be,” said Darnell Cowan, one of Clark’s students who currently works at NASA.
Marquan Martin, director of the Identification and Access Control Center in TSU’s Office of Emergency Management, said that as a freshman at TSU “one of my greatest joys was taking graphics design under the tutelage of Professor Y.Y. Clark.”
“She challenged you, encouraged you, and she genuinely cared about every single student,” he said. “She was an amazing professor and mentor, a true gem to the Tennessee State University community. She will be remembered by all the lives she touched.”
To learn more about TSU’s College of Engineering, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/engineering/
Note: Emmanuel Freeman in the Office of Media Relations contributed to this article.
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