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Black History Month
2017 Honoree

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Jacqueline M. Hughes-Oliver

Jacqueline M. Hughes-Oliver


Department of Statistics

North Carolina State University

Background: Where are you from?

I have lived in North Carolina (first Raleigh then Clayton and now Cary) for over 30 years, and before that lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. I moved to Ohio after graduating from high school in Jamaica, where I was born. My grandmother raised me in Jamaica while my mother earned a living in the US. I visited my mother in Ohio once or twice per year (usually summer and Christmas holidays), and finally moved to live with her permanently after high school.

An experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

My high school did not have counselors preparing students for college, but my mother always intended that I would attend college in the US. I was fairly uninformed about the college experience, so when I showed up at freshman orientation, I had naively never given any thought to what would be my major. In my family and community, children aspired to be lawyers and medical doctors (even though there were none in our family), but I had no interest in either of these careers. The closest thing that I could think of that I could tolerate was to be a veterinarian. So my answer to the question of what I would major in was that I wanted to be a veterinarian. The counselors wisely advised me that I could become a veterinarian through many majors, and they recommended that I choose something that I enjoyed doing, and that I was good at. Aha, then the answer was easy – math! Logical, structured, clear right or wrong (or so it seemed to me at the time), and oh so useful. I never could have imagined where math could take me, and I’m so grateful for those young orientation leaders for their advice.

Most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences.

Receiving the 2014 Blackwell-Tapia Prize. Being named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. Directing the Exploratory Center for Cheminformatics Research at NC State University, as a result of being awarded a very large NIH research grant. Director of Graduate Programs for one of the largest statistics department in the US. Earning several awards for teaching effectiveness at NC State University, due to a strong and long commitment to training the next generation. Being a Black female statistics full professor, holding the torch for others to soar.

Most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life. 

Marrying Roderic Oliver over 30 years ago, and having our two children Cherice (22) and Marcus (16).

Any words of wisdom/inspiration.

  1. Be true to yourself. Live life to the fullest and enjoy it as if no one is watching. (So what if people think you are a little crazy?)
  2. Your past (positive or negative) cannot be changed. It contributed to the person you are today. Now look to the future and claim the prize ahead.
  3. Be kind and thoughtful. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.