Ronald Yancey, First Black Graduate of Georgia Tech, Presents Granddaughter With Masters Degree 60 Years After His Historic Commencement


May 10, 2024

In 1965, Ronald Yancey made history as the first Black student to graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology (also known as Georgia Tech). Almost 60 years later, he’s passing his academic legacy on to his granddaughter. 

During the 2024 spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 3, Yancey was present on stage as a new class of graduates received their diplomas. And he handed a degree to a very special new graduate: his own granddaughter, Deanna Yancey.

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Deanna Yancey graduated with a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Georgia Tech at Friday’s spring commencement ceremony, the same degree her grandfather worked so hard to earn in 1965. As she walked across the stage at the university’s McCamish Pavilion, she hugged her grandfather, and he handed her the diploma that he broke barriers for her to achieve.

“When I got in, I got to read the acceptance email to my grandfather,” Deanna Yancey said about getting into the prestigious university. “He was so happy. He almost started jumping; he was so excited.”

In the 1960s, when Ronald Yancey applied to the school, he was rejected twice, with the university citing that he “did not fit the Tech model for success.” He attended Morehouse University and continued to apply to the Georgia Tech engineering program. He was eventually accepted, but the struggles didn’t stop there.  


Once on campus, the elder Yancey endured isolation and discrimination and was barred from attending athletic events or using public transportation. He was also asked to meet discriminatory graduation requirements and complete additional exams that weren’t asked of other graduating seniors. Despite all the odds stacked against him, Ronald Yancey earned his electrical engineering degree from Georgia Tech, becoming the first Black student to graduate from the University. Nearly 60 years later, his granddaughter would walk across the stage, following the footsteps he left behind.

A sculpture of Yancey commemorating his 1965 matriculation was dedicated in 2019 on the Georgia Tech campus.

“​​It’s just beyond me how someone could be so strong in such a hard time,” Deanna said. “He’s broken barriers and he’s opened doors that I will never have to experience opening myself.”


Six decades after he opened those doors, Ronald Yancey stood on the graduation stage as a happy grandfather watching his granddaughter walkthrough.

“We are extremely proud that Deanna took the initiative to select her field, to quietly and quickly apply, arrange her curriculum and follow through with the completion of her matriculation,” the elder Yancey said in a news release from Georgia Tech. “Deanna’s graduate degree is truly an impressive achievement.”

Congratulations to both Yanceys on their impressive and groundbreaking achievements.


Cover Photo: Ronald Yancey, The First Black Graduate of Georgia Tech, Presents Granddaughter With Masters Degree 60 Years After His Historic Commencement / Photo credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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