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The Awe-Inspiring Nathelyne Kennedy, 1st Texas Black Woman to Earn Engineering License (Watch)

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  SiSTEM Pioneers

Prairie View Produces Productive Pioneers — Like Trailblazer Nathelyne Kennedy.

Growing up in Conroe in the 1950s, Nathelyne Kennedy excelled in arithmetic.

She uttered, "Since becoming a teacher was the popular choice at the time, that was all I could think about during my high school years. About engineering, I knew nothing."

Engineering was proposed by a teacher from high school. In 1955, Texas's sole HBCU that offered an engineering degree was Prairie View A&M University. Schools were still segregated. She didn't have any trouble in school.

"No, it wasn't hard. Uh, you know, every year I attended, I was on the honor roll. I also graduated with honors and was the only student in my engineering class to do so."

She was the lone female engineering student as well.

"Since my name on campus changed to ‘MIS engineer,’ everyone understood who I was when I was being discussed. There goes that MIS engineer."

Kennedy relocated to Chicago after receiving her degree since she was unable to find employment in the Houston region. There, she eventually persuaded a company to hire her. That Chicago company collaborated with her on her first project twelve years later, when she moved back to Houston and founded her own business, Nathelyne Kennedy and Associates.

"Men kept approaching me with the idea of starting a business together, and I couldn't help but wonder why these men were asking me to do so when, um, they weren't even men of color. That being the case, I responded, why do I need them? I might launch my own business. I am the only resource I need. So I did exactly that."

Every Houstonian has used or visited one of the infrastructure developments her firm worked on, including Interstates 10, 45, and 69, Beltway 8, and roads 288 and 99. in addition to our significant sporting landmarks like Minute Maid Park, NRG Stadium, and the Toyota Center. Kennedy owned her business for 38 years until selling it two years ago.

Kennedy was selected Houston's engineer of the year in 2016. Next to this, one of her biggest accolades is the naming of the building housing the School of Architecture at Prairie View A&M University after her. This university is not only her alma mater, but also a school her relatives have attended since the 1890s.

Kennedy sits on the board of a Prairie View foundation and has donated a scholarship in her honor, ensuring that the subsequent generations will be helped by her work.

"As much as I can, I want to attempt to assist them. I've got people guiding me. I attempted to do the same thing with the young people and young engineers."

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