Slaughter, whose career began as an electrical engineer, formerly headed the National Science Foundation as its first African-American director, among other accomplishments.
Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for diversity in higher education and in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
In his new position, Slaughter will focus on what has become his lifelong quest of increasing underrepresented minority participation in the aforementioned fields.
“I was pleased to see strong interest in both the School of Education and the School of Engineering to combine their interests and work together. That’s rare in higher education on most campuses,” Slaughter said. “A truly effective STEM effort requires participation by science faculty, engineering faculty and faculty in the school of education to truly have an impact. Any one entity alone would not be able to put together a strong and sustainable program.”
Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of USC Rossier, said: “The Rossier School has had a longstanding focus on diversity and on improving urban education locally, nationally and globally. With professor Slaughter’s expertise in advancing minority participation in the studies of science and engineering, and our shared commitment to these efforts with the Viterbi School of Engineering, we all stand to have a more profound impact in this area than ever before.”
USC Viterbi dean Yannis C. Yortsos also expressed his pleasure in having Slaughter join his school.
“The nation urgently needs to increase the recruitment and the retention to engineering of students from all backgrounds. His impact in this effort will be immediate and significant both at the Viterbi School and at the national level,” Yortsos said.
In 1956, Slaughter began his career as an engineer at General Dynamics Convair, which he left in 1960 to work as a civilian at the United States Naval Electronics Laboratory Center in San Diego.
He worked for the Navy for 15 years, becoming director of the Information Systems Technology Department. Slaughter went on to become director of the Applied Physics Laboratory, a research and development facility at the University of Washington in Seattle, until his appointment as assistant director of the Astronomical, Atmospheric, Earth and Ocean Sciences directorate of the National Science Foundation in 1977.
In 1979, Slaughter became academic vice president and provost of Washington State University, but left for his historic appointment in 1980 as the first African-American to direct the National Science Foundation. He returned to higher education in 1982 as chancellor of the University of Maryland, where he made major advancements in the recruitment and retention of African-American students and faculty.
Slaughter was named the president of Occidental College in 1988,and transformed the school during his 11-year tenure into the most diverse liberal arts college in America.
He taught courses in diversity and leadership for one year as the Irving R. Melbo Professor of Leadership Education at USC before accepting the position of president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, whose mission is to increase the number of engineers of color, in 2000.
He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Hall of Fame of the American Society for Engineering Education. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the Tau Beta Pi Honorary Engineering Society. He is the founding editor of the international journal Computers & Electrical Engineering.
Slaughter holds honorary degrees from more than 25 institutions and has received numerous awards.
Slaughter earned a Ph.D. in engineering science from the University of California, San Diego, an M.S. in engineering from UCLA and a B.S. in computer sciences from Kansas State University.