Skip to main content
Alumni Magazine

College’s first African American faculty member is still a part of the department that he loves

An older black and white photo of Hubert Winston at work in the lab.

Hubert Winston, associate professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been affiliated with NC State for more than 45 years. First, as a student, then in the roles of faculty member, administrator and (now) a retiree working part-time for his University “home,” the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE).

He was both the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from NC State and the first to serve as a faculty member in the College of Engineering.

“One of the best decisions of my life was to enroll at NC State,” he said. “I’ve spent far more than half of my life here and it’s something that I continue to benefit from.”

Winston enrolled as a freshman at NC State in the autumn of 1966. In a student population of 10,203, he was one of 33 undergraduate African American students. At the time, there were no African American faculty members in the College of Engineering and only a handful of African American faculty and staff members in the University.

In 1975, after earning B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering, Winston made history when he was hired as an assistant professor of chemical engineering and became the first African American faculty member in the College. After a stint with Exxon Production Research Company, in 1983, Winston returned to the (then) Department of Chemical Engineering as an associate professor. After a few years, he moved to the COE dean’s office, where he served as the assistant dean for academic affairs for 11 years. He believes some of the projects he worked on during those years have benefitted many students across the University. Those include helping to establish the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Program, the Contractual Readmission process for undergraduates and the system of undergraduate academic minors.

In 2003, after a three-year hiatus from NC State, Winston returned to the campus and was involved in an effort led by Peter Kilpatrick, the CBE head at the time, that secured $28 million in initial funding to design and build the Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center on Centennial Campus.

After a national reckoning in 2020 on the state of racial equity in the United States sparked by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, COE Dean Louis Martin-Vega called on leaders in the College to redouble their efforts to recruit and retain outstanding faculty members from underrepresented groups.

Winston thinks that the College’s academic departments should make tangible commitments to do just that and that a fair metric should be established to ensure that the commitments lead to concrete actions. He also believes the departments should make similar commitments for the process of recruiting their new graduate students.