Florence Boldridge has been a guiding light for hundreds of minority and female students at the University of Kansas School of Engineering for nearly 30 years. The National Society of Black Engineers shined a light on her career achievements earlier this month by naming her a Golden Torch Award winner as the Minority Engineering Program Director of the Year.
Boldridge, who has been director of the School of Engineering’s diversity and women’s programs since 1983, received special recognition March 26 at the NSBE annual convention in St. Louis, Mo. A total of 14 Golden Torch Awards were given out during the ceremony to student and corporate leaders, as well as NSBE chapters around the nation. A full list of winners is available at the NSBE website.
“This award means a lot to me — and even more to the KU School of Engineering,” Boldridge said. “This is for the current students, as well as the ones in the past, who helped build the program, and those who will be here in the future to take us to even greater heights. Most importantly, I’m accepting this award on behalf of all the minority engineering program directors around the country who do this on a daily basis.”
Boldridge oversees a program that started in 1971 in the wake of racial unrest and violent protests against the Vietnam War on the KU campus. At its inception, the program served African-American engineering students. Over the years and after a few name changes, it’s been expanded to include Hispanic, American Indian and female engineering students. There are approximately 75 students active in the program today.
“I’m truly humbled by this award,” Boldridge said. “It means a lot to me, because it’s a reflection of what this program has come to mean to all the students who have come through and what they have been able to accomplish over the years.”
Boldridge was nominated for the award by Carles Miller, a 2006 KU graduate who earned a master’s degree in engineering management. He now works for Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City, Mo., serving as business development manager for the firm’s energy group. After graduation, Miller was invited to address KU NSBE members on how to succeed in their engineering careers. It was then, he said, that he truly saw Boldridge’s dedication to her students.
“I noticed that the current and former KU NSBE members are dedicated to NSBE’s mission, ‘To increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community,’ ” Miller said. “(So many of these students) are great examples of the passion, dedication and commitment to the NSBE mission that students mentored by Ms. Boldridge share.”
Boldridge continues to provide strong leadership and foster the development of students.
“Florence’s commitment and passion to this program throughout the years has had a tremendous impact on her students and the School of Engineering,” said Stuart Bell, dean of the school. “She ensures that students are successful academically and are ready to enter the workforce as future industry leaders. We are extremely proud of her accomplishments and this recognition from NSBE.”