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Women's History Month: June Bacon-Bercey, the first female on-air meteorologist

A woman who opened many doors for women and minorities in the field of meteorology.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Some may call her a Weather Wonderwoman, others a trailblazer, or a pioneer for female meteorologists. All of them are true. 

June Bacon-Bercey was instrumental in opening the door to women and minorities in meteorology. She was the first black woman to earn a degree in meteorology, and the first trained female meteorologist on television in the United States. 

June was Born on October 23, 1928, in Wichita KS - the heart of tornado alley. 

 "My mom's journey with science began as a young girl. She was always fascinated with the environment and weather," explained June's daughter, Dail St. Claire. 

June went through grade school earning honors in math and science. With encouragement from her family, she went on to pursue a four-year degree in Meteorology at UCLA. But this did not come without barriers. 

"The academic teachers were making sure that girls had a career that women could depend on and it was absolutely not science and math," stated St. Claire.  

The college tried to get her to shift her focus to something more appropriate for her gender. 

"Her college counselor told her on the first day, that this honors math student, my mom, should pursue a major in home economics and not pursue what is clearly a futile pursuit to get a meteorology degree for what reason." 

Credit: WJRTV

Despite this - June prevailed. She earned an A in thermodynamics and a B in economics. By 1954, she graduated as UCLA’s first African American woman with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology. She then took a job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Atomic Energy Commission. 

By the 1960s, June took to the airwaves as the first trained female meteorologist on broadcast news, a position she never wanted as it was thought too gimmicky for women. But her talent was far from a show. Earning her another groundbreaking title.  

She was the first woman and Black American with the American Meteorological Society seal of Approval, an award that honors on-air meteorologists for forecasting to the public. An award that honors on-air meteorologists for forecasting to the public. 

June's mission in life went beyond informing the public on the weather. 

"Society has a moral obligation to put aside the past myths about women and black Americans and other minorities. Not only in the field of meteorology - in all technical fields. She was committed to being an example and very vocal about the obligation of society," explained St. Claire

June strove to remove the theoretical chains that are put on women and minorities wanting to pursue careers in STEM. 

She launched the June Bacon-Bercey Scholarship and funded a meteorology lab at Jackson State University. She made it her lifelong goal to pave the way for so many

June Bacon-Bercey passed away on July 3rd, 2019, leaving behind an everlasting legacy. 

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