2019 Presidential Medallion Honoree

John Slaughter, portrait photo at podium with Presidential Award, at USC Academic Honors Convocation 2019 4/9/19 Photo by Steve Cohn.John Brooks Slaughter

Professor of Education and Engineering
USC Rossier School of Education
USC Viterbi School of Engineering

 A champion of progress in science and in society, John Brooks Slaughter ranks among higher education’s most influential pioneers.  He has driven the creation of knowledge across a wide array of our societal institutions, especially those that contribute to our nation’s longstanding scientific preeminence.  His noble mission to provide greater opportunities for minority scholars has not only strengthened America’s technological capabilities, but has also brought us closer to our ideals of equality and excellence.

In a career that spans more than 60 years, Professor Slaughter has built a legacy of ingenuity and service.  He has earned considerable acclaim in the engineering community for his development of computer algorithms for system optimization and discrete signal processing, as well as for his leadership in advancing STEM research and education.  His esteemed contributions to our country’s science and technology policy include his historic tenure as director of the National Science Foundation, where he became the first African-American to lead the agency and oversee its vast resources for fostering scientific innovation.

Professor Slaughter is a catalyst for change in higher education, and his accomplishments evince a lifelong commitment to social advancement.  A crucial voice for underrepresented groups in academia, he is a cornerstone of efforts to improve faculty and student diversity nationwide.  In his longtime role as president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, he continued the work he spearheaded as chancellor of the University of Maryland and as president of Occidental College, especially as he transformed the latter into one of the country’s most diverse academic institutions.

Professor Slaughter is a beloved teacher and mentor at USC, where his wise guidance has uplifted so many at our Rossier School and our Viterbi School.  He is held in similarly high regard throughout the scholarly world.  A recipient of more than 25 honorary degrees, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, while earning numerous accolades for his stellar body of work, including the U.S. Black Engineer of the Year Award and the NAE Arthur M. Bueche Award.

The modern face of science and engineering owes much to Professor Slaughter’s leadership and perseverance.  Indeed, his impact resonates beyond the academy.  By supporting and encouraging those who follow in his footsteps, he has inspired generations of trailblazers to help build a world that represents a better likeness of its people.

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 For his enduring scientific achievements, his efforts to create opportunities for underserved communities, and his devoted mentorship of our students and faculty, the University of Southern California is proud to present John Brooks Slaughter with the Presidential Medallion.