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Engineering a More Inclusive Campus

Tim Humphrey holding his Hall of Fame statuette in front of red background
Tim Humphrey was inducted into the College of Engineering's Electrical and Computer Engineering Hall of Fame in 2018.

The applause was unexpected.

As vice president for IBM’s Chief Data Office, senior state executive for IBM in North Carolina and senior location executive for Research Triangle Park, Timothy Humphrey ’96 is accustomed to public speaking. And as an involved alumnus, he has stood in front of an audience of NC State students numerous times to share his expertise.

But at the fall 2019 welcome address for the College of Engineering, when Humphrey reached the part of his talk where he mentioned being inducted to the college’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Hall of Fame, the first-year students caught him off guard.

“Normally when I say that, I just keep going, but this time, everybody started clapping. It was really touching — a very, very proud moment,” he said.

A proud moment on an already meaningful day —Humphrey felt like he was going back in time. “I was imagining if I was in their shoes,” he said. “I’ve benefited from great advice through the years. So to be able to give that back to 1,700 engineering freshmen, it was powerful.”

Volunteering his time through such talks is just one way Humphrey chooses to give back to NC State. He participates in panel discussions about careers and delivered the College of Engineering’s fall commencement address.

Dollars spent with NC State are dollars toward making our region, our state, our country and our planet a better place.

He sums up his passion for higher education succinctly: “Great institutions teach you how to learn.” And Humphrey is a model for constant learning, having gained experience in fields like artificial intelligence, software development testing, battery technology and analytics.

But before he leveraged his education into a successful career, before his hall of fame induction, before he entered the College of Engineering after being encouraged toward that career path by a guidance counselor — before all that, as a high school student in Fayetteville, Humphrey already saw himself at NC State.

The summer before his junior year, he had the opportunity to attend a camp run by Wilson College of Textiles. The week at camp sold him on NC State — in fact, he liked it so much, he considered majoring in textiles before his lifelong fascination with electricity brought him back to engineering.

Humphrey was able to fund his NC State education through a combination of work and partial scholarships — one of which was the Minority Engineering Scholarship.

“I think the work they do at the College of Engineering to encourage minorities to pursue careers in engineering is amazing. Working with middle and high school students, then working with the students in the engineering program is game-changing,” he said. “I always say that getting a job in a STEM field is, for some people, generational wealth. It really can change generations.”

Humphrey’s experiences, as well as his desire to give back and create additional opportunities for students with backgrounds similar to his, helped motivate his recent decision to create the Timothy L. Humphrey Women and Minority Engineering Initiatives Award. The endowment will support the work of Women and Minority Engineering Programs (WMEP) at the College of Engineering.

Through summer programs, recruitment weekends, workshops and roundtables, WMEP assists in recruiting, retaining and mentoring students traditionally underrepresented at the College of Engineering. The program is run by Dr. Laura Bottomley and Angelitha Daniel.

“Tim’s support allows us to continue exposing students of all ages to the field of engineering. It is also important to create a campus culture that allows all students to thrive. Having a partner like Tim is crucial to us reaching our program goals in terms of enabling a dynamic and inclusive student body that can solve the most pressing problems of our society,” Daniel and Bottomley said in a shared statement.

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Diversity is one of the pillars he focuses on in his work at IBM, a company he describes as having a longstanding history of firsts when it comes to inclusion. “I like to do anything I can to move the ball forward,” he said. “So that’s an additional motivating factor around focusing on diversity at NC State.”

On a recent campus visit, Humphrey spent time with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity and learned more about what the office’s programs deliver to students. “It really hit home for me,” he said. “Meeting some current students and seeing them take advantage of OIED’s resources made me say this group could really use some help.”

He decided to establish an additional endowment, the Timothy L. Humphrey Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Award to support OIED’s campus community centers.

“Tim’s personal story of his time at NC State motivates us to work hard every day to enhance our university’s climate of belonging and inclusion, and to enrich everyone’s cultural competence. That’s part of what we see as setting NC State apart. His financial backing of our programs shows that, as an alum and a business person, he recognizes how the work of OIED supports student success for all students. Tim’s investment is so meaningful, and we hope it inspires others,” said Sheri Schwab, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity.

“When you want to be proud of your university, your university should model the world, the society, your region. Diversity and inclusion programming helps the school look like its surroundings,” Humphrey said. “And creating a diverse institution takes time and programming, which requires investing.”

Humphrey’s two endowments will further the extraordinary opportunities NC State can offer to students by fostering a more inclusive campus.

“Thinking and doing the extraordinary to me means creating something you would have never imagined possible in the past,” he said.

This was reflected in his fall commencement address for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as he described the accomplishments of previous alumni, from first-generation flash memory technology to the success of women in space.

As Humphrey continues to share his experiences with current engineering students, he thinks about how many potential superstars there are at NC State right now, and the great things they will go on to do. He hopes the Timothy L. Humphrey Women and Minority Engineering Initiatives Award and the Timothy L. Humphrey Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Award will provide more opportunities for students to think and do the extraordinary — and to share their own meaningful moments with the next generation.

“When I think about the breadth and depth of expertise that NC State produces, I think about how we as a university can change the world in areas from engineering to veterinary medicine to business to textiles. Dollars spent with NC State are dollars toward making our region, our state, our country and our planet a better place.”

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