The first Black woman to earn a degree in meteorology has died, according to Accuweather. Dr. June Bacon-Bercey, the country’s first female TV meteorologist, passed on last year on July 3, 2019, at the age of 90, but her death was not reported until recently.
In a message posted on Facebook, Bacon-Bercey’s daughter, Dail St. Claire, said she waited to announce her mother’s death because she was “not ready to grieve.”
After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1955, Bacon-Bercey obtained a master’s degree from the University of California-Los Angeles. She continued to make history by becoming the first woman and African American to be awarded the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Seal of Approval for excellence in television weathercasting.
In 1977, Bacon-Bercey was a contestant on the television game show “The $128,000 Question,” where she won $64,000, according to The Washington Post. She used the winnings to start a scholarship fund for women interested in becoming meteorologists. “That was my plan at the beginning, and it’s still my plan,” Bacon-Bercey said at the time. “I was discouraged [from becoming a meteorologist], and other women were discouraged. If they feel they’ve got some money behind them, it might be better.”
From 1978 to 1990, 12 women received scholarship assistance and gained achievements in the fields of geochemistry, physics, astronomy, meteorology and oceanography, advancing to senior positions with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several television stations across the country.
Bacon-Bercey was named Minority Pioneer for Achievements in Atmospheric Sciences in 2000 and helped found the AMS Board on Women and Minorities to increase the number of women and minorities in the atmospheric sciences.
“My mom was my mentor and my role model in my life,” St. Claire, who is the chief operating officer at Park Avenue Finance, told KSNW. “I always speak about my mom in my life whenever I have a chance to speak in different venues. There’s no question that my career, while different, the work ethic and discipline and persistence and uncompromising goal to be excellent at all costs is what I learned from my mom.”