Winifred Burks-Houck Professional Leadership Lecture, Awards, and Symposium


Winifred Burks-Houck (1950-2004)

Winifred Burks-Houck was an Environmental Organic Chemist and the first female president of NOBCChE. In 2010, NOBCChE established the distinguished lecture, award, and symposium to honor Winifred A. Burks-Houck by highlighting the leadership scientific achievements, creativity, and community service of a NOBCChE-affiliated professional woman and a NOBCChE undergraduate and graduate student working towards a degree in a STEM field. Distinguished lecturers are women who are thought leaders on STEM, leadership, organizational development, entrepreneurship, and other success enabling areas.

Winifred Burks-Houck was born in Anniston, Alabama on August 20, 1950. She was one of six children born to Matthew Burks and the late Mary Emma Goodson-Burks. She was the great, great, great granddaughter of noted abolitionist Harriet Tubman.   Winifred attended elementary school and high school in Anniston, Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from Dillard University in New Orleans and a Master of Science Degree in Organic Chemistry from Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia. 

In 1983, she began her career as an environmental chemist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA. As a result of her work as an environmental chemist, she was invited to Dakar, Senegal where she represented NOBCChE and presented a talk entitled ʺEnvironmental Applications and Regulatory Reportingʺ.

As a leader in NOBCChE, Burks-Houck was critical in the establishment of the organization on the West Coast. She was the first chair of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter from 1984 to 1990 and organized numerous educational and professional development activities for the local community. She brought a strong sense of leadership, organization, and vision to all the events and activities she spearheaded. In 1991, Burks-Houck was elected national vice-president of NOBCChE, a position she held until becoming president in 1993. She served as president for an unprecedented four consecutive terms until stepping down in 2001. Winifred Burks-Houck is especially remembered for her unique brand of leadership, positive attitude, and devotion to this organization.

Her tenure as national president signaled several positive changes within the organization. Under her leadership, the Science Quiz Bowl and the Science Fair were established at the National level. Partnerships were built with other organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Chemical Society (ACS), American Indian Science and Engineering Alliance, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Additionally, she is credited with:

  • Increasing the number of students and professional chapters by more than 100%
  • Increasing NOBCChE visibility;
  • Instituting new scholarships through public and private entities
  • Updating telephone and computer systems at the National Office. 

Winifred joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority while an undergraduate student at Dillard University. She was a loyal member of the San Francisco-Peninsula Alumnae Chapter and served in various leadership positions:  president, vice-president, chair of the chapter’s fundraising-most notably the annual golf tournament, and chapter coordinator for the annual Soul Stroll for Health. At their 43rd National Sorority Convention, she was recognized as a Project Cherish Honoree for her outstanding work in the field of science.  

Winifred is remembered as a dedicated scholar, brilliant scientist and gifted mathematician, with an uncanny ability for recalling numbers, songs and other trivia. However, she is remembered most for inspirational leadership, dry sense of humor, and charming smile.



Distinguished Lecturer

Professional Awardee

Graduate Student Awardee

Undergraduate Awardee



Dr. Margaret E. M. Tolbert

Senior Advisor and CEOSE Executive Liaison, NSF

Ms. Sandra Parker

Dow Chemical Company

Kari Copeland

University of Mississippi

Sharon Patrice Anderson

Florida State University



Dr. Mae C. Jemison

CEO and Founder, The Jemison Group Inc.

First Black Female Astronaut in Space

Dr. Christine Grant

North Carolina State University

Tova Samuels

Western Michigan University

Kaetochi Okemgbo
Yale University



Maggie Anderson

CEO of the Empowerment Experiment and  author of the book “Our Black Year”

Dr. Sharon Barnes

Dow Chemical Company

Racquel Jemison, Carnegie-Mellon University

Trishelle M. Copeland-Johnson
University of South Florida




Dr. Rashida Weathers, Drug Enforcement Administration

Bria Dawson
Clemson University

Edikan Archibong
University of South Florida



Dr. Noreen Mayberry-Khan, “The Tox Doc”


Dr. Sharon Kennedy

Colgate Palmolive Company

Alicia Bowen, University of Maryland

None awarded



Dr. Pamela McCauley

University of Central Florida   


Ketura Odoi, Texas A&M University    


Tashni-Ann Dubroy

Shaw University President


   Samantha Mensah  


Carroll A. Thomas, MBA

Director of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

 Dr. Maria Curry-Nkasah  Treva Brown Patience Mukashyaka  


Dr. Alveda Williams
Dr. Connie Watson Viridiana Herrera Raven Richardson  


Dr. Zakiya Wilson-Kennedy Dr. Zakiya Wilson-Kennedy Otega Ejegbavwo Jaquesta Adams  


Dr. Christina Jones Dr. Christina Jones Sondrica Grimes Jordan Alford  


Dr. Sharon Walker Dr. Sharon Walker Dayna Patterson Asia Hypsher  
 2022 Dr. Brandi Tolliver Dr. Brandi Tolliver Samantha Mensah Audrey Washington