In the winter
of 1974, Harold C. Hunte ‘76 and Harold Blake, two African American
engineering students, sat in the institute and reflected on how few
African American engineers they knew. During the early 1970s, African
American enrollment in the College of Engineering was low compared to
Northeastern's other colleges. Hunte and Blake felt that African American
engineering students had little interaction with one another because
they were spread throughout the college's six disciplines.
In an effort to unite them,
letters about the formation of an engineering organization were sent
to all African American engineers. On April 18, 1974, Hunte and Blake
founded the Black Engineering Student Society (BESS). The organization’s
mission was to form a network for and solidarity among student engineers,
building a support system for engineers to ensure that they would stay
in the field. Ray Guthrie, Assistant to the Dean of the College of Engineering,
became the group’s advisor.
In hopes of increasing the
number of African American engineers at Northeastern, one of BESS's
projects was to interest high school students in engineering as a profession.
BESS members visited local English High School and coached juniors and
seniors on the process of applying to Northeastern’s College of
In April 1975, BESS became
a student chapter of the National Black Engineering Student Society.