February 8, 2020
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. James H. Stith. Dr. Stith was the first African American to earn tenure as a professor at West Point. His work with STEM professional organizations that improve program evaluation and teacher preparation and enhancement left a sizeable legacy across the scientific community.
James H. Stith was born on July 17, 1941, in Brunswick County, Virginia. He attended Oak Grove Elementary School and he graduated from James Solomon Russell High School in 1959. After high school, he went on to enroll at Virginia State College where he earned a B.S. in physics in 1963 and a M.S. degree in physics in 1965. While enrolled at Virginia State, Stith joined the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and worked as an instructor. After he completed his M.S. degree, he was called to active duty with the U.S. Army. After serving two years in the Army, he began working at the Radio Corporation of America and began studying at Pennsylvania State University, where he completed his D.Ed. degree in physics in 1972.
After completing his degree, Dr. Stith was recalled to the Army. There he joined the faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he became the first tenured African American professor. In 1993 he retired from his post at the rank of Colonel. During his military tenure, he was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal W/Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Shortly after leaving West Point, Dr. Stith began teaching as a full professor at the Ohio State University until 1998.
Legacy - Community Involvement
Dr. James Stith is heavily involved in professional scientific organizations that are committed to his primary interests are in Program Evaluation and Teacher Preparation and Enhancement. Dr. Stith has served as a past President of the National Society of Black Physicists, an active member, and a chartered fellow of the organization. He served as the director of physics programs and the Vice President of Physics Resources Center at the American Institute of Physics (AIP) from 1998-2008. He currently holds the title of Vice President Emeritus with AIP. Stith is a past President of the American Association of Physics Teachers (first African American), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a Fellow of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Among his many other accomplishments, Dr. Stith has served on the board of the Triangle Coalition (1999-2006), the advisory board for Project Kaleidoscope (1990), and served as the Past President, President, President Elect, and Vice President of the American Association of Physics Teachers (1990-1994). He was recognized as one of the “50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science” in 2004. In 2018 he was presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis “Who’s Who”.