First Black U.C. Riverside Graduate Speaks at Commencement Ceremony

First Black U.C. Riverside Graduate Speaks at Commencement Ceremony

Roy Overstreet spoke of his time at U.C. Riverside and life after graduation.

Published June 6, 2011

He may not be the first Black president or the first Black attorney general, but Roy Overstreet is a first at the University of California-Riverside, the first African-American to receive a degree from the university.


Sunday, he spoke at the ninth-annual Black Graduation Ceremony at U.C. Riverside calling his experience 53 years ago, “mind-blowing,” reports a southern California newspaper.


Overstreet and just one other Black student, Zelma Ballard, were the only African-American students at UCR for a while. Today, however, UCR African-American students are known to graduate at large percentages. African-Americans at the school graduate at a rate of nearly 72 percent, up 4 percent from the campus-wide rate of around 68 percent and up over 30 percent from the national Black average.


After Overstreet received an undergraduate degree in physics from UCR, he earned a master’s degree in the 1960s. Becoming the country’s first Black oceanographer, he worked for nearly 30 years tracking oil spills and nuclear material in oceans.


He currently resides in Oklahoma and is the second consecutive Black UCR pioneer to address the Black Graduation Ceremony.

Written by Danielle Wright


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