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Edwards, Cecile Annette Hoover

Published onJul 30, 2021
Edwards, Cecile Annette Hoover

(October 26, 1926 - September 17, 2005)

Quick Facts

Iowa State alumna (PhD ‘50 Nutrition), nutritionist, professor of Nutrition and Research and chairman of the the Department of Home Economics at Howard University, noted nutrition researcher for low-income and African-American people.

Cecile A. Hoover was born on October 26, 1926 in East Saint Louis, Illinois, the third child of Ernest Hoover and Annie Jordan Hoover.  Ernest was an insurance agency manager, and Annie was a teacher.  Cecile grew up in East Saint Louis, attended segregated schools there, and graduated with honors at the age of 15. 

Cecile's mother, a Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) graduate, influenced her to attend Tuskegee where she majored in home economics, minored in nutrition and chemistry, and graduated with high honors in 1946.  She remained at Tuskegee to attend graduate school through a Carver Foundation Fellowship which was sponsored by Swift Meat Packing Company.  She conducted chemical analyses of animal sources of protein and received an MA degree in organic chemistry in 1947.  Cecile then obtained a General Education Board Fellowship and came to Iowa State College to study for a PhD.  She completed her requirements for the degree in two years, but a member of her dissertation committee convinced others that she was too young to graduate at the age of 22.  She stayed an additional year and finally received her PhD from Iowa State in 1950.  Her dissertation is entitled  Utilization of Nitrogen by the Animal Organism: Influence of Caloric Intake and Methionine-Supplementation on the Protein Metabolism of Albino Rats Fed Rations Low in Nitrogen and Containing Varying Proportions of Fat.  It was a study of methionine, an essential amino acid in synthesizing proteins. Through her three years at Iowa State, Cecile lived at 420 Ash Avenue in Ames.

Immediately upon graduation from Iowa State, Dr. Hoover returned to Tuskegee Institute where she received an appointment to the faculty and also as a research associate with the Carver Foundation.  Two years later she became head of Tuskegee's Department of Foods and Nutrition.  She served as the principal investigator on a Carnegie Foundation project (1951-1952) and on a Tuskegee Foundation nutrition project (1953-1954.)  In addition, she directed the Amino Acid Analysis Project contracted with the Human Nutrition Research Division of the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (1952-1955) and was the principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health project (1952-1956.)

Dr. Hoover met her husband, Dr. Gerald A. Edwards, a physical chemist, at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in April, 1951.  They married in June, and Gerald came to Tuskegee where they worked together at the Carver Foundation and on numerous research projects.  They had three children; Gerald Jr., Adrienne, and Hazel.  

In 1956, both Cecile and Gerald were appointed to positions at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University.  Cecile became professor of nutrition and research while Gerald became chairman of the chemistry department.  They had jointly won a National Institutes of Health research grant for studies on the metabolism of methionine in the adult rat.  The grant continued until 1974. 

Also at North Carolina A & T, Dr. Cecile Edwards directed the Undergraduate Research Participation Program from 1960 to 1968 and the Vegetable-Protein Research Project in 1964.  In 1966, she took a two year sabbatical to work in India at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore.  Upon her return in 1968, she was appointed chair of the Department of Home Economics.

In 1971, Dr. Edwards was appointed professor of nutrition and chair of the department at Howard University (Washington, D.C.).  She structured the new school of Human Ecology at Howard and served as dean of the school from 1974 to 1990.  She also served as dean of the School of Continuing Education from 1986 to 1987 and as interim dean of the College of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Allied Health Sciences from 1997-1998.  She retired in 1999 as Professor Emeritus of Nutrition. 

Throughout her years at Tuskegee Institute, North Carolina A & T State University, and Howard University, Dr. Edwards focused her research on the goal of improving the health of economically deprived people.  Her research on amino acids was directed to educating people about the basics of fortifying the body with proper nutrition.  In 1985, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development appointed Dr. Edwards to head a five-year study of the effects of nutritional, medical, psychological, and socioeconomic factors on the pregnancies of low income women.  In 1969, she served as chair of the White House Conference on Nutrition, was a member of the Advisory Committee to the Director of National Institutes of Health from 1972-1975, and also served on the National Conference on Black Youth Unemployment in the 1980s.  In 1978, she won a Ford Foundation grant to serve as consultant in nutrition at the University of Khartoum in the Sudan.  She was also a leader in the movement to make the home economics a more scientific study. 

In the course of her career, Dr. Edwards published over 160 articles in peer reviewed journals including The Journal of Nutrition and the International Journal of Applied Radiation and Isotopes.  She also co-authored Human Ecology: Interaction of Man with His Environments with other members of the Howard faculty.  

Dr. Edwards received a number of honors and awards over they years.  She won the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Iowa State University Alumni Association in 1972.  In 1984, she was honored at the Biennial Convention of the Tuskegee Alumni Association.  She also received honors from North Carolina A & T State University.  She received citations from the Illinois House of Representatives in 1980 and 1987 for her scientific accomplishments.  The governor of Illinois designated April 5, 1984 as Dr. Cecile Hoover Edwards Day “in witness of her contribution, her professional recognition nationally and internationally and the sharing of her expertise with communities around the world including East St. Louis, Illinois.”  She was also awarded a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Science by the National Council of Negro Women.  

Dr. Cecile Annette Hoover Edwards died in Washington, D.C. on September 17, 2005 and was interred in Mount Hope Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Selected Sources

General biographical sources on the life and career of Dr. Cecile Annette Hoover Edwards were found in Wini Warren, Black Women Scientists in the United States. Indianapolis. Indiana University Press, 1989, pp. 88-91; Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention. New York. Facts on File, Inc. 2003, pp. 68-69; Elizabeth H. Oakes, International Encyclopedia of Women Scientists. New York. Facts on File, Inc., 2007, pp. 98-99; Jeanette E. Brown, African American Women Chemists. Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 51-56; in the Guide to the Cecile Hoover Edwards Papers DCAAP.0070. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Collection Number 249; and in an obituary in the Washington Post, September 24, 2005,

A copy of her doctoral dissertation is in the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University (call number C O 1950 Hoover.)  Her place of residence at Iowa State was determined by examining Iowa State student directories, also found in the Special Collections Department.

Family information from Public Member Trees, the 1940 U. S. Census, the Biography & Genealogy Master Index, and U. S. School Yearbooks, 1900-1999 were found at  Interment information and obituaries for both Cecile Hoover Edwards and Gerald Alonzo Edwards, Sr. were found at 

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