Willie Hobbs Moore (1934–1994): A First in EE and Physics

The first Black woman at Michigan to earn a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering ('58 and '61), and first in the country to earn a PhD in Physics (1972)
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Willie Hobbs Moore

Willie Hobbs Moore (1934–1994) made history as the first Black woman at Michigan to earn a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering (’58 and ’61). She began her undergraduate studies in 1954, the same year as the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case finally struck down segregation in public schools.

After several years working as an engineer, she returned to pursue her doctoral degree, and became the first Black woman in the entire country to earn a PhD in Physics in 1972.  She worked as a lecturer and research scientist at U-M until 1977, researching spectroscopy of proteins with her advisor, Prof. Samuel Krimm.

In 1977, Moore became an assembly engineer at Ford, where she expanded Ford’s use of Japanese engineering and manufacturing methods. She was named one of the 100 “most promising black women in corporate America” by Ebony magazine in 1991, and was committed to improving STEM education for underrepresented minorities.

The University of Michigan established the Willie Hobbs Moore: Aspire, Advance, Achieve Award to recognize individuals who have served as formal or informal mentors to students in fields related to Science, Technology, and Engineering. It is sponsored by the Center for Engineering Diversity & Outreach and Women in Science & Engineering.

In 2018, Electrical and Computer Engineering established the ECE Willie Hobbs Moore Alumni Lectureship. The lectureship was established to recognize ECE alumni from traditionally underrepresented groups who are leaders in their field and serve as role models for the ECE community through their leadership, impact on society, service to the community, or other contributions. The first recipient, Dr. Isaac R. Porche III (PhD EE:S), said he was honored to receive this award because he had met and greatly admired Moore. 2021 recipient Dr. Donnell Walton (PhD Applied Physics) is reportedly organizing a symposium in Moore’s honor at the 2022 APS meeting, commemorating the 50th anniversary of her doctoral degree.

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Alumni News; Diversity and Outreach; Division News; History