National Engineers Week Banquet at Sweet Briar to feature Christine Darden of ‘Hidden Figures’

Posted on January 17, 2018 by Janika Carey

Christine Darden Christine Darden. Photo courtesy of NASA

Sweet Briar College is recognizing National Engineers Week with two programs on Thursday, Feb. 22. An afternoon session for high school girls in honor of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day will be followed by the region’s National Engineers Week Banquet.

This year’s keynote speaker is Christine Darden, a retired NASA aeronautical engineer, data analyst and mathematician featured in “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” Margo Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book became a New York Times Best Seller and was the basis for a film by the same name, which garnered three Oscar nominations.

Darden earned an M.S. in applied mathematics from Virginia State University and began working at NASA in 1967. In 1983, she completed her Ph.D. at George Washington University. During her distinguished 40-year career at NASA, Darden developed the organization’s sonic boom research program, led research in NASA’s aeronautics programs and published numerous articles on high-lift wing design in supersonic flow, flap design, sonic boom prediction and sonic boom minimization. She was the first African-American woman at NASA’s Langley Research Center to be promoted into the Senior Executive Service, the top rank in the federal civil service, and received three Certificates of Outstanding Performance from Langley Research Center (1989, 1991 and 1992).

“We’re honored  to be able to bring such an inspiring and accomplished scientist to campus,” said Hank Yochum, director of the College’s Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program. “Darden was one of only a few female aerospace engineers at NASA Langley and went on to become one of the most prominent sonic boom researchers. She is an incredible leader and role model for our students and for engineers everywhere.”

This is the third year in a row the College is hosting the banquet, an annual event that brings together industry professionals, high school and college students, educators and business leaders. The 2018 dinner will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Fitness and Athletics Center’s Upchurch Field House. The event will kick off with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner and program from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Tickets are $35 general admission, $25 for college students with I.D., and $15 for high school students with I.D. Reserved tables for eight in a priority location and with custom signage are also available for $350. There is no charge for Sweet Briar faculty, staff or students. Advanced registration is required and will close at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. Pop-up exhibits, including display tables, are available at no extra cost. To purchase tickets and learn more, visit our website.

Before the evening program gets underway, Sweet Briar will host a free afternoon event for high school girls to celebrate the 17th annual Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day. Activities will begin at 3 p.m. and include hands-on design projects led by Sweet Briar engineering faculty and students, a Q&A session with Darden, a campus tour from 5 to 6 p.m., and free dinner tickets to the National Engineers Week Banquet. Space is limited to 20 students, so participants should register in advance on the event website.

For more information about both events, contact Rebecca Girten at (434) 381-6447 or