Distinguished Alumni, Hall of Fame 2015

Irwin R. Holmes

Irwin R. Holmes Jr. received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University in 1960. He was the first African-American to receive an undergraduate degree from the university. He went on to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Drexel University.

After graduation from NC State, Holmes worked for several companies before taking a position with IBM, where he worked for 19 years until his retirement. As a senior manager of computer development at IBM, he earned two patents and was a key member of the task force that led to the development of the IBM PC product line. Holmes has also been an entrepreneur and he developed a shopping center in Durham, NC, started a gourmet restaurant, and developed other real estate ventures.

As one of a handful of African-American students who took those first bold steps to desegregate universities in the South, Holmes helped open the doors to generations of students to come and ensure that they had access to higher education. Holmes was a scholar and had high academic achievement. He was inducted into the electrical engineering honor society, Eta Kappa Nu, in his junior year. He was also an athlete and ran track, played intramural basketball and varsity tennis. Holmes was the first athlete to integrate the Atlantic Coast Conference and in his senior year he was made co-captain of the tennis team.

Holmes has stayed involved with the university, supporting the NC State Engineering Foundation and the university’s Minority Engineering Programs. The Irwin Holmes and Black Alumni Society Conference Room on the Centennial Campus was named in his honor.