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DR. PEGGIE WARD KOON


“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson



About Dr. Peggie Ward Koon


Dr. Peggie Ward Koon was born in Millen, Georgia, the youngest of 10 children. Her father (Enoch Ward) was a sharecropper and her mother (Irene Clark Ward), who completed the local one-room high school, was a housewife. When Peggie was 9 months old, her older brother Charles, the family’s first trailblazer, encouraged the family to move to “the city” of Augusta, Georgia so that his younger siblings would have better educational and career opportunities.


Dr. Koon was in the first group of students to desegregate Tubman Middle School and the Academy of Richmond County High School, which changed the trajectory of her life, allowing her to take more advanced classes and to receive a General Motors Scholarship. As a General Motors Scholar, Peggie received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Smith College, then continued her study of mathematics and information technology as a General Motors Graduate Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She holds a doctorate degree in management information systems from Kennedy Western University.


Dr. Koon was inspired to excel in the STEM disciplines and to pursue a STEM career by her older siblings who held degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, chemical engineering, theoretical particle physics, and engineering. Peggie attributes her interest in technology to her Smith College experience. As a General Motors (GM) Scholar at Smith, Peggie was given the opportunity during the summer of her junior year to work as an intern at the GM Data Center. Upon her return to Smith, Koon took her first computer science class. Since that time, she has spent her entire career in STEM fields.


Dr. Koon’s experience utilizing emerging technologies and automation to lead change spans four decades and is the basis for her book, Leading Change, A Practical Guide for Change Agents. She also is the author of more than forty published management and technical articles and papers focused on strategic change, leadership, diversity & inclusion, change management, IT and OT automation, and process control for both discrete and continuous processing in the automotive, aerospace, nuclear reprocessing, insulating products, textile, and media industries. In 2021, Dr. Koon kicked-off the Global Leadership Development Program for Women in STEM training series sponsored by BRASIC (the Belt and Road Alliance for Sensing and IoT Collaboration) and CICS (the China Instrument and Control Society) with her presentation, “How to Successfully Lead Change”.

Dr. Koon is best known as a strategist, consultant, coach, and author. She is the founder and former CEO of Leading Change, LLC., and the former vice president of audience for Chronicle Media, Morris Publishing Group, Augusta, Georgia. Dr. Koon is currently the President of the Alumnae Association of Smith College (AASC). She is also a member of the Smith College Board of Trustees.


In 2014, Dr. Koon became the first Black and second female president of the then 69 year old International Society of Automation, (ISA | https://www.isa.org /), a global organization of 40,000+ automation professionals. And in 2015, Koon was the first Black female Chair of the Automation Federation (AF |https://www.automationfederation.org ). In 2017, she served as the Interim Director of ISA.

Dr. Koon began her career as the first Black female manufacturing engineer at the Inland Division of General Motors, where she worked with robotics in the manufacture of automotive foam seats. Koon then worked on the launch site ground operations system (LSGOS) and development of statistical gravitational pull tests for the thermal protections system (TPS) for Nasa’s Space Shuttle at Rockwell International. She also held various IT and OT roles at Babcock & Wilcox and Allied General/Bechtel’s Barnwell Nuclear Fuels Plant before becoming the first Black female Process Control Manager for Graniteville Company. She was promoted to Director of Integrated Manufacturing Systems /Plant Systems at Avondale Mills/Graniteville Company, leading the company’s implementation of process control and process automation systems across the enterprise at locations in South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.


Dr. Koon is passionate about the education of the next generation of STEM professionals. Koon was an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina in Aiken, South Carolina, teaching principles of business information systems to senior undergraduate students in the School of Business. She has also authored several articles about the “STEM Divide” or the effect of emerging technologies and competency based credentialing programs on workforce qualifications. In 2014, as president of ISA, Koon spoke at the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Conference on “Exploring the Role of Credentials Versus Degrees”. Koon also led a workshop entitled “Are We There Yet,” for graduates and prospective employers, at the 2016 National Society of Black Engineers’ 42nd Annual Conference. And in 2021, Koon explored the importance of addressing today’s changing workforce dynamics when building a strategy for Smart Manufacturing as a part of ISA’s IIoT & Smart Manufacturing virtual webinar series.


Dr. Koon is also passionate about diversity & inclusion (D&I). Having served on numerous panels focused on D&I issues, she is acutely aware of the specific challenges faced by Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), both in education and in industry. In 2015, she moderated a panel on Diversity & Inclusion at the ISA Fall Leaders’ Meeting. In 2016, she moderated the D&I panel entitled “No Girls Allowed” at the “Redefining Success” Smith Women’s Leadership Conference. She also served as a panelist on “Workforce Diversity: Attracting the Next-Generation Industrial Workforce” at the 2016 Automation Conference.


Dr. Koon has also published two novels: The Frog and the Redneck and Where Would I Be, the Life and Times of Irene Clark Ward.


Dr. Peggie Ward Koon is an ordained Baptist Deacon at the First Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia. She is the wife of Wayne Noland Koon. They are the proud parents of one son, Avery Koon; they also have four grandchildren.


What's one of your favorite quotes?

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” - Edward Everett Hale

What does Black History Month mean to you?


When I reflect on Black History Month I am of course grateful the month of February has been established as a time when our nation and the world are intentional in its effort to raise awareness of our heritage as a people – to both recognize the sacrifices made and to celebrate the numerous amazing accomplishments of Black men and women -- and its importance to America’s history. It’s also a time when we should celebrate the sacrifices and accomplishments of those closest to us -- within our own families – who have made or are making a difference in our world. During this month, more than ever, I remember the contributions of my older brothers Enoch Ward, Jr. and Dr. Bennie F.L. Ward. Enoch Ward, Jr. was the valedictorian at Lucy Laney High School at the age of 16. At 18 years of age, when Enoch had already completed two years at Paine College, (an HBCU), he agreed to transfer to the Georgia Institute of Technology where he was the first Black student to live on the Georgia Tech campus and the first Black student to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in chemical engineering. During that same time, Dr. Bennie F.L. Ward was in that first group of students to desegregate the all-white Academy of Richmond County High School. Dr. Ward completed his MS and PhD degrees in theoretical particle Physics at Princeton University in a record 3 years. Dr. Ward was the first Black person named as Chair of the Department of Physics at Baylor University; he remains at Baylor as a Distinguished Professor of Physics. Dr. Ward developed a solution to the cosmological constant problem showing that quantum mechanics can be used to treat the general theory of relativity without having to change the conditions of the theory (e.g., without having “to go to higher dimensional spaces, or change the nature of space and time”) - without modifying Dr. Einstein’s theory. I am so proud of Bennie for his contributions to theoretical particle physics and of both of them for being exemplary role models for our family.


Black History Month reminds me of the “Power of One.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, used his spheres of influence to raise awareness of our rich Black heritage within the Black Community. He had a vision that Black American History would be shared with the rest of the world, and he used what he had – his home in D.C. -- to publish the Journal of Negro History and the Negro History Bulletin; to run a publishing company called Associated Publishers; and to organize the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to jumpstart the effort. Then something incredible happened: what began as a weekly publication became a monthly celebration – not just within the Black Community but across our nation and around the globe. Knowing what Dr. Woodson started as just one person – what he was able to do - is inspiring and gives me hope for future generations. It’s why I am so proud of the many Black men and women, including my brothers and sisters, who paved the way for me. And it’s why I am so immensely proud of the work my brother, Dr. Bennie Ward, has done and continues to do. It’s why Black people ought to celebrate the accomplishments of the “Ones” – the individuals in our families – our family heritage, too….and not just during Black History Month, but all year long.


 

Dr. Koon was nominated by Rhonda Pelton, Operational Excellence Leader at Dow Inc.:


Dr. Peggie Koon has been a leader in the area of Process Automation and Technology for over 30 years. She is not only a change management leader, author and serves on several non-profit boards but she is an amazing role model and great mentor. Dr. Koon deserves her flowers as she is an outstanding STEM Pioneer!

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