Heroes of the past help us move forward

two women stand in front of images stating diversity and inclusionWhen I was in high school, I wanted to be a maxillofacial surgeon (no need to skip ahead to my bio…Mead & Hunt doesn’t have a secret dentistry division). After getting my wisdom teeth removed, I was convinced that there may be advances that I could bring to the dental field. Because of my experience, I wanted to challenge myself to discover a way to make oral surgery less scary and painful.

While my life did not lead down the path I originally intended, I do have the opportunity now to work in an industry that constantly challenges its members to be innovative pioneers. Each discipline at Mead & Hunt provides services that were made possible because individuals throughout history dared to dream about ways to make the world easier, faster, safer, and stronger.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I have listed African American pioneers and innovators whose dreams helped to influence the development of our various industries.

Air Service
Cornelius Coffey – First Aviation school founder (Coffey School of Aeronautics in Illinois) who trained many Tuskegee Airmen.

Architecture and Interiors
Norma Merrick Sklarek – First Black woman to become a licensed architect in both California and New York and the first Black female fellow of the American Institute of Architecture.

James Banning – First African American pilot to fly across America in 1932. From LA to Long Island, the flight took 41 hours and 27 minutes.

Horace King – Born a slave and became one of the most sought-after bridge builders in the South. Inducted into the Alabama Engineers Hall of Fame at the University of Alabama.

Building Engineering
Howard P. Grant – First known black member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Moses McKissack – Owner of the nation’s first black-owned architecture firm that is still active in the design and construction management industry today.

Cultural Resources
Solomon G. Brown – First African American employee at the Smithsonian Institution. Had a 54-year tenure.

Lewis H. Latimer – Invented and patented the process for making carbon filaments for lightbulbs.

MaVynee Oshun Betsch – Environmental activist known as “The Beach Lady” who was honored by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion.

Food and Beverage
Lloyd Hall – Food preservation pioneer.

Garrett Morgan – Inventor of the stop light.

Vernice Armour – First African American female combat pilot.

W. E. B. DuBois – First African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard, and a founder of the NAACP.

Hugh M. Browne – Patented a device that prevents water backflow in 1890.

These influential figures in Black History have blazed paths that made it possible for us to serve in our fields and use our challenges as motivation to be more effective and efficient. Thanks to distinguished innovators like those above, we get to live in a day and age where we can overcome some of the challenges they faced as they worked to share their knowledge and talents with the world.

Mead & Hunt prides itself on working to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace. Our Employee Resource Group focuses on issues of diversity and inclusion as they relate to making sure each member of our workforce feels valued and supported. My challenge to all of us is to put aside any fear of things that seem scary and painful so that we can take risks and figure out how we can beat the odds—much like the heroes above!

Anita Cobb

About the Author

Anita Cobb, MBA, is a waste management specialist motivated by the human elements of diversion. Anita is especially focused on the community impacts of effective waste strategies. She participates in waste audits and writes waste diversion plans for airports to aid in innovative approaches to resource management. When not managing waste, Anita likes to spend time with her kids, ride rollercoasters, and train to be the next big superhero.

One response on “Heroes of the past help us move forward


    “My challenge to all of us is to put aside any fear of things that seem scary and painful so that we can take risks and figure out how we can beat the odds—much like the heroes above!”

    Beautifully written. Thank you for reminding us what humanity is capable of when we celebrate our diversity and create something amazing that we can rejoice in and be proud of.

    Thankful for black leaders who pioneered and initiated innovative change regardless of the tensions and challenges of their time. Let’s continue to combat tensions with a focus of valuing the gifts/talents we each bring to the table.

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