The American Nuclear Society has selected a group of Black former students known as the Tennessee-85 to receive the inaugural Social Responsibility in the Nuclear Community Award. The 85 former students are receiving the honor in recognition of their bravery and leadership displayed in desegregating an Oak Ridge school in Tennessee in 1955. A co-recipient of the award is the Secretary of Energy for the leadership displayed by the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy) in ordering the all-white Oak Ridge public schools to integrate that year. The award will be presented at the upcoming ANS Winter Meeting.
The award: The ANS Honors and Awards Committee, in conjunction with the Diversity and Inclusion in ANS Committee, established the award last year. H. M. “Hash” Hashemian, the H&A Committee chair, said, “This award recognizes an individual, group, or organization for outstanding efforts in social responsibility promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion or inclusive community-building in the nuclear community, and it is perfectly suited that the inaugural award recognizes the 85 brave young Tennessee students and the U.S. Department of Energy in desegregating the first public school system in the southeastern United States back in 1955.”
Along with a plaque presented at the ANS Winter Meeting, ANS will provide $1,000 to the TN-85 Student Endowment Fund.
Background: Martin McBride, ANS member since 2001 and retired DOE site manager, approached the H&A Committee in July 2020 with the idea of creating the award. He had observed that the 2020–2021 school year marked the 65th anniversary of the desegregation of public schools in Oak Ridge. McBride noted that nuclear pioneers have made important contributions to civil rights, and he highlighted the role that the AEC played in desegregating Oak Ridge schools. At the time, the AEC managed the schools because the town was under federal jurisdiction due to its involvement with the Manhattan Project.
“Our industry has played an amazing role in the social advancement of our culture,” McBride said. “In addition to showing respect for fairness and equality, the new ANS diversity award should help attract the best and brightest young people to the nuclear business in the future.”