US Black Engineer (USBE) magazine's annual BEYA STEM Conference in Washington, D.C., had special significance for General Motors (GM) as one of the company's top executives, Alicia Boler Davis, received the 2018 Black Engineer of the Year Award.
Boler Davis, executive vice president of global manufacturing at GM (No. 42 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) was chosen by a 16-person BEYA Selection Committee made up of leading scientists and engineers from the federal government, academia and industry.
"I'm proud to represent all of my colleagues on the GM board of directors in sending our congratulations to Alicia," Linda Gooden said to an audience of hundreds during the awards gala at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park on Feb. 10.
Jose Tomas, senior vice president of GM Global Human Resources, read a congratulatory letter penned by Former President of the United States Barack Obama to Boler Davis.
"I hope you know how grateful I am for all you've done to help America dream up solutions, and drive our nation forward on the path of progress," Obama wrote.
He said that Boler Davis' award is "well-beyond deserved" as she is an "outstanding role model for young people across our country, no matter what they look like or where they come from."
"Congratulations, I trust your colleagues are very proud of you," the letter said. "And, Michelle and I wish you and your loved ones the very best. We hope to see you again, soon."
In a video message, GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra also congratulated Boler Davis.
"You are a great leader," Barra said. "You're a great role model, and you're a great engineer, and in any area of the business you manage.
"I couldn't be there in person to congratulate you but just know that we are so proud and so glad you are a part of the GM team."
Boler Davis, who began her career at GM in 1994 and was the first African American woman to run an assembly plant, is currently responsible for building more than 10 million vehicles a year.
Alicia Boler Davis, Executive Vice President, General Motors Global Manufacturing with the GM 2018 Modern Day Technology BEYA winners.
"I want to share a quote with you that sums up how I got here, and how others will get here in the future," she said in her acceptance speech.
"It's by Helen Keller who said, 'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.'
"That's from a woman who knew something about overcoming obstacles to success.
"If someone who faced the obstacles that Helen Keller faced can approach things with hope and confidence, how can we not think, 'What's my excuse?'
"From a very young age I thought, just as she must have, that anything is possible."
Boler Davis is the sixth woman to receive this award from the Council of Engineering Deans of the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which graduate more than 33 percent of all Black engineers in the United States.
She is active in providing inspiration and motivation for middle school girls who like math and science, and mentors at GM. Boler Davis is recognized as a global ambassador of goodwill for underrepresented minorities in STEM and will keynote the 2018 Council of Engineering Deans of HBCUs meeting.
She has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, a master's degree in engineering science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Indiana University.
GMC Drive Experience
During the BEYA STEM Conference, GM offered journalists from around the country the opportunity to test-drive some of the vehicles manufactured under Boler Davis' leadership. One of the trucks used to navigate Washington, D.C., was the 2018 Sierra Denali.
Customers' number one reason for purchasing the truck is exterior design, which includes signature Sierra Denali's chrome grille, 20-inch wheels, and 6-inch chrome assist steps. But the unique interior decorative trim is eye-catching as well.
New for 2018 are the exterior colors Quicksilver Metallic and Red Quartz Tintcoat, and the tire pressure monitor system now includes tire fill alert.
The truck has a Bose audio system operated on an 8-inch diagonal Color Touch navigation radio with GMC Infotainment that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone protection capability. Also available is a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Sierra Denali's safety features, including a standard rear-vision camera and IntelliBeam headlamps with automatic high-beam control, came in handy for journalists, especially on rainy days.