Saturday, December 26, 2015

Monumental Moment

Michael Artin and Shirley Jackson

win nation’s highest honor in science and technology...

Michael Artin and Shirley Ann Jackson

Photos: Donna Coveney (Artin) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Jackson)

Excerpt as reported by the MIT News Office

MIT Professor Emeritus Michael Artin and MIT Corporation Life Member Shirley Ann Jackson ’68 PhD ’73 are among 17 world-class researchers in the country who have been awarded the nation’s highest honors for scientists and innovators, the White House announced December 22, 2015.

President Barack Obama will present the National Medal of Science to Artin, professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics, and Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at a ceremony early next year. With these awards, Artin and Jackson bring to 58 the number of MIT scientists who have won the National Medal of Science.

This year, the White House has awarded the National Medal of Science to nine recipients and named eight awardees of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

“Science and technology are fundamental to solving some of our nation’s biggest challenges,” Obama said in an announcement yesterday. “The knowledge produced by these Americans today will carry our country’s legacy of innovation forward and continue to help countless others around the world. Their work is a testament to American ingenuity.”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

An Esteemed and Exceptional Friend

Dr. Ronald E. McNair

PERSONAL DATA: Born October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina. Homegoing January 28, 1986. He is survived by his wife Cheryl, and two children.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Carver High School, Lake City, South Carolina, in 1967; received a bachelor of science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 and a doctor of philosophy in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976; presented an honorary doctorate of Laws from North Carolina A&T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of Science from Morris College in 1980, and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984.

ORGANIZATIONS: Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Optical Society, the American Physical Society (APS), the APS Committee on Minorities in Physics, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Board of Trustees, the MIT Corporation Visiting Committee, Omega Psi Phi, and a visiting lecturer in Physics at Texas Southern University.

AWARDS: Posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

SPECIAL HONORS: Graduated Magna Cum Laude from North Carolina A&T (1971); named a Presidential Scholar (1967-1971), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-1974), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-1975), a NATO Fellow (1975); winner of Omega Psi Phi Scholar of the Year Award (1975), Los Angeles Public School Systems Service Commendation (1979), Distinguished Alumni Award (1979), National Society of Black Professional Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award (1979), Friend of Freedom Award (1981), Who's Who Among Black Americans (1980), an AAU Karate Gold Medal (1976), five Regional Blackbelt Karate Championships, and numerous proclamations and achievement awards.

EXPERIENCE: While at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. McNair performed some of the earliest development of chemical HF/DF and high-pressure CO lasers. His later experiments and theoretical analysis on the interaction of intense CO2 laser radiation with molecular gases provided new understandings and applications for highly excited polyatomic molecules.

In 1975, he studied laser physics with many authorities in the field at Ecole Dete Theorique de Physique, Les Houches, France. He published several papers in the areas of lasers and molecular spectroscopy and gave many presentations in the United States and abroad.

Following graduation from MIT in 1976, he became a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California. His assignments included the development of lasers for isotope separation and photochemistry utilizing non-linear interactions in low-temperature liquids and optical pumping techniques. He also conducted research on electro-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications, the construction of ultra-fast infrared detectors, ultraviolet atmospheric remote sensing, and the scientific foundations of the martial arts.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978, he completed a 1-year training and evaluation period in August 1979, qualifying him for assignment as a mission specialist astronaut on Space Shuttle flight crews.

He first flew as a mission specialist on STS 41-B which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on February 3, 1984. The crew included spacecraft commander, Mr. Vance Brand, the pilot, Commander Robert L. Gibson, and fellow mission specialists, Captain Bruce McCandless II, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Stewart. The flight accomplished the proper shuttle deployment of two Hughes 376 communications satellites, as well as the flight testing of rendezvous sensors and computer programs. This mission marked the first flight of the Manned Maneuvering Unit and the first use of the Canadian arm (operated by McNair) to position EVA crewman around Challengers payload bay. Included were the German SPAS-01 Satellite, acoustic levitation and chemical separation experiments, the Cinema 360 motion picture filming, five Getaway Specials, and numerous mid-deck experiments -- all of which Dr. McNair assumed primary responsibility. Challenger culminated in the first landing on the runway at Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 1984. With the completion of this flight, he logged a total of 191 hours in space.

Dr. McNair was assigned as a mission specialist on STS 51-L. Dr. McNair died on January 28, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, also taking the lives of the spacecraft commander, Mr. F.R. Scobee, the pilot, Commander M.J. Smith (USN), mission specialists, Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Onizuka (USAF), and Dr. J.A. Resnik, and two civilian payload specialists, Mr. G.B. Jarvis and Mrs. S. C. McAuliffe.

Notable Hobbies... He was a 5th degree black belt Karate instructor and a performing jazz saxophonist. He also enjoyed running, boxing, football, playing cards, and cooking.

Video of Ronald E. McNair Building Dedication, Center for Space Research, December 6, 1986.

As shared from NASA, Lyndon B. JohnsonSpace Center; Houston, TX - December 2003

A Profound Legacy of Excellence

Dr. Phyllis A. Wallace

Dr. Phyllis A. Wallace earned the faculty status of professor emerita of management within the Sloan School of Management. She is a labor economist who pioneered the study of sexual and racial discrimination in the workplace. Professor Wallace spearheaded, through her scholarship, a precedent-setting legal decision in a federal case that reversed sex and race discrimination in American industry. She directed studies for a federal lawsuit against American Telephone and Telegraph Co., then the largest private employer in the United States. The suit led to a 1973 decision that the company had discriminated against women and minority men. The company agreed to pay millions in back wages and to make other pay adjustments. The verdict also brought about changes in transfer and promotion policies and recruitment criteria.

The case, which Professor Wallace wrote about in her book, Equal Employment Opportunity and the AT&T Case (MIT Press, 1976), was an extension of her own life, background and interests. She continued to work in these areas after her retirement and only recently had agreed to spend the next six months helping Sloan School Dean Lester C. Thurow improve the school's response to sexual harassment problems. She also had begun work on encouraging minorities in the participation of activities at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

In a letter to the Sloan faculty on her passing in January 1993, Dean Thurow said that, as a labor economist, Professor Wallace "widened all our knowledge." Her study of Sloan School women graduates "made everyone wiser about the issues of women attempting to advance in the business world," he said. Professor Wallace was born in Baltimore, MD. She received a BA degree in 1943 from New York University, an MA from Yale in 1944 and her PhD from Yale in 1948.

After receiving her PhD, she joined the National Bureau of Economic Research as an economist/statistician, while also teaching part-time at the College of the City of New York.
She served on the faculty of Atlanta University from 1953 to 1957, when she became a senior economist for the US government specializing in Soviet economic studies. She was chief of technical studies at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Office of Research from 1966 to 1969 and vice president of research for the Metropolitan Applied Research Center from 1969 to 1972. After serving as a visiting professor at the Sloan School, in 1975 she became the first woman to hold the rank of professor at the school. When Mount Holyoke College conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Professor Wallace in 1983, the citation said that as an educator, public servant and scholar "your career has taken you from the university to government to the corporate boardroom." It continued: "Beginning your career at a time when neither blacks nor women had a fair chance, you have seen great progress toward equal employment opportunity-progress due in no small measure to your scholarship on the economics of discrimination in the labor market."

When she retired in 1986, scholars in industrial and labor relations and economics from around the world gathered at MIT for a conference in her honor. In addition, the Sloan School endowed the Phyllis A. Wallace Doctoral Fellows Fund, which provides support for blacks admitted to the school's doctoral program, and the Phyllis A. Wallace Visiting Scholars Fund to provide support for black visiting scholars at the school.

In addition to her many awards and honors, she served on numerous national advisory committees and corporate boards. Her books included Women, Minorities and Employment Discrimination (1977), Pathways to Work: Employment Among Black Teenage Females (1974), and Black Women in the Labor Force (1980).

As shared from MIT News, January 13, 1993

Saturday, October 31, 2015

MTL's Akintunde Ibitayo Akinwande

Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL), Akintunde Ibitayo (Tayo) Akinwande, is a Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Professor Akinwande received a B.Sc. (1978) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Ife, Nigeria, a MS (1981) and Ph.D. (1986) in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, Stanford, California.

MTL is an interdepartmental laboratory that supports Microsystems research encompassing work in circuits and systems, MEMS, electronic and photonic devices, and molecular and nanotechnology. The research is enabled by a set of shared experimental facilities, as well as a vibrant industrial consortium. Annually, MTL supports the research of 745 students and staff.

MTL was established in the mid-1980s inside the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Over the years, MTL has evolved and grown into an Interdepartmental laboratory reaching across the entire Institute.

Dr. Akinwande is also the director of the MISTI Africa Empowering the Teachers Fellowship Programme. Empowering the Teachers is a teaching fellowship that enables outstanding young Nigerian faculty in science and engineering to collaborate with faculty at MIT in developing new curriculum and teaching methods.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

MIT Physicist - James Edward Young

Dr. James Edward Young is an outstanding scientist and pioneer who became MIT's first tenured African American Physics Professor. He also advised Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson and Dr. Sylvester James Gates (MIT Physics Ph.D. graduates). These two alumni are among MIT's cadre of physicists that received among their numerous national and international honors, prestigious appointments by two United States Presidents.

James E. Young was born in Wheeling, West Virginia on January 18, 1926. He was graduated from Lincoln High School in 1941. In 1942 he entered Howard University (Washington, DC) and was graduated with the B.S. Degree in Physics in 1946. From 1946 to 1949 he was employed as an Instructor in Physics at Hampton Institute, Hampton, VA. During this time he took, in absentia, the M.S. Degree in Physics at Howard University. In 1949 he joined the staff of the Acoustics Laboratory at MIT as Research Assistant in Physics. In 1951 he received the M.S. Degree, without specification, from MIT. He is a member of Sigma Pi Sigma, Beta Kappa Chi and Sigma Xi.

James Edward Young received his Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953.  The dissertation's title is "Propagation of Sound In Attenuating Ducts Containing Absorptive Strips".  Acknowledgements cited in his original thesis submission on May 18, 1953 is as follows:

He was married to E. Elaine Hunter in 1948 and they have one child, James E. Young III

Excerpt of biographical note taken from his successful physics dissertation defense in 1953:
Propagation of Sound in Attenuating Ducts Containing Absorptive Strips.  Dr. Young's archived thesis is courtesy of DSpace@MIT - a service of MIT Libraries.  All items in DSpace@MIT are protected by original copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pioneering Political Science Scholar appointed Dean of MIT School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences

As shared by: Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office (Excerpts)
May 21, 2015

Political scientist Dr. Melissa Nobles has been named the new dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), effective July 1. She will succeed Dean Deborah Fitzgerald, who announced last fall that she would step down this June, having served since 2006.

Nobles, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and head of MIT’s Department of Political Science since 2013, is an accomplished scholar who has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1995. In addition to her role as department head, Nobles has served on a series of Institute-wide committees over the last decade.

“To tackle our global challenges — from water and food scarcity and climate change to digital learning, innovation, and human health — we need ambitious new answers from science and engineering. But because these challenges are rooted in culture, economics, and politics, meaningful solutions must reflect the wisdom of these domains, too,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “Professor Nobles offers us a vision of the humanities, arts, and social sciences as the human stage on which our scientific and technical solutions have purpose and meaning. We are fortunate that she will bring to the deanship such an expansive worldview.”

Nobles says she believes research and teaching within SHASS are integral to all of MIT’s work.
“Upon being asked to serve as dean, I was thrilled and felt a great sense of honor and privilege to have the opportunity to lead such an important school at MIT,” Nobles says. “I think SHASS is so important because nearly all the rest of the endeavors at which the Institute so excels — science, engineering, business, and architecture — all exist within a social, political, cultural, and economic context, and that’s precisely where SHASS lives.”

She adds: “We have to be mindful of answering the question: To what ends are our technological and scientific endeavors being put? Many of the answers to those kinds of questions rest in the departments and courses in SHASS.”

Nobles joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in 1995 fresh from earning her PhD in political science at Yale. Since then she has distinguished herself as a scholar in MIT's best problem-solving tradition, living out her department's commitment to "rigor and relevance" through pioneering research on global questions of racial and ethnic politics and justice. She earned her first endowed chair, the Cecil and Ida Green Assistant Professor of Political Science, in 1997. She was promoted to associate professor of political science in 1999 and granted tenure in 2002. She became a full professor in 2009 and received her current endowed chair in 2010, before becoming department head.

In her two books, Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics and The Politics of Official Apologies, she draws illuminating comparisons across societies as disparate as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil and the United States. This cross-cultural perspective also informs her teaching, where she takes particular pleasure in watching students from the US and other parts of the world open each other's minds to new points of view.

Nobles was selected from a field of candidates evaluated by a faculty search committee. The search committee, chaired by Evan Ziporyn, the Kenin Sahin Distinguished Professor in MIT’s music program, comprised faculty from 11 different departments and programs within SHASS.

In all, SHASS has 21 departments, programs, centers, and consortia and 172 full-time faculty members. Its professors have won four Nobel Prizes, seven MacArthur Fellowships, four Pulitzer Prizes, 38 Guggenheim Fellowships, and four John Bates Clark Medals, among other distinctions.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Monumental Historical Celebration........ Dr. Paula T. Hammond

As shared from MIT News Office
July 13, 2015

Dr. Paula Hammond named head of Department of Chemical Engineering.
An MIT faculty member since 1995, Hammond succeeds Dr. Klavs Jensen as ChemE department head.

Paula T. Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering, has been named the new head of the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChemE), effective July 13. She is the first woman and first person of color appointed to the post.

The announcement was made this morning in a special faculty meeting of the department. “We are fortunate to have someone with Professor Hammond’s vision and dedication to lead this distinguished department,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “She has a deep knowledge of the Institute and has led a remarkable career as a researcher and educator. Please join me in congratulating Paula on this appointment.”

Hammond succeeds Klavs Jensen, the Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering, who has been the department head in ChemE since 2007; Jensen will reengage full time with teaching and research in the department. “Klavs has been a superb colleague, and he has set a very high bar for leadership of a department,” Waitz noted.

Hammond is a core faculty member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and was a founding member of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. She has collaborators in academic departments throughout the Institute, and has worked with clinicians and researchers at various Boston-area hospitals. Her research group focuses on biomaterials and drug delivery. Their research focuses on the self-assembly of polymeric nanomaterials; the core of her work is the use of electrostatics and other complementary interactions to generate functional materials with highly controlled architectures, including the development of new biomaterials and electrochemical energy devices. She and her former students and postdocs have started a range of biotech companies.

Hammond’s many awards and honors include the Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Chemical Engineering Research in 2014, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Charles M. A. Stine Award in Materials Engineering and Science in 2013, the Ovarian Cancer Research Program Teal Innovator Award in 2013, the Junior Bose Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000, an NSF Career Award in 1997, and the MIT Karl Taylor Compton Prize in 1992 (in recognition of achievements in citizenship and devotion to the welfare of MIT). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a director of the Board of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and a fellow of the American Physical Society and American Institute of Biomedical and Biological Engineering, among other honors.

She has taught several classes over the past several years, including the 10.467 (Polymer Science Laboratory), 10.569 (Synthesis of Polymers), and 10.10 (Introduction to Chemical Engineering). Hammond previously served as executive officer of the department in 2008 through 2011. Hammond received her BS in chemical engineering from MIT in 1984, her MS from Georgia Tech in 1988, and earned her PhD from MIT in 1993.

Friday, July 10, 2015

MITES and William Ramsey

The Impact

As MITES celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2015, we look back upon the 40 years of students, mentors, accomplishments, and people who played significant roles in MITES successes. William "Bill" Ramsey, Class of 1951 – Course VI, was the executive director of Minority Introduction to Engineering from 1988 to his untimely death in 1995. Professor Emeritus of Aeronautics and Astronautics Leon Trilling, who worked with Ramsey through the MITES program, said, “He was a very wonderful human being and extremely skillful in understanding and thoughtful in dealing with the students that came to him.” The Tech, V114, I66, January 25, 1995

"Bill Ramsey did exceptional things for people and for MIT," said Provost Mark S. Wrighton. "I had the opportunity to interact with him in connection with our MITES program, and he was extraordinary: sensitive, yet firm; encouraging, yet realistic. Bill was a truly dedicated man and one who had earned an enjoyable old age."

The Legacy

The William Ramsey Endowed Fund is a fitting tribute to honor Bill's commitment to mentor and spur young people, particularly from underrepresented minority groups, to excellence and leadership in the technical domain. This endowed fund enables us to consistently deliver a quality program by mitigating annual fluctuations in contributions.

The 40th Anniversary

On Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18, the MITES 40th anniversary celebration begins. All people with any affiliation to the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP) are invited to attend, including students, alumni of all programs, parents of all programs, the MIT community, local community members, donors, and others. More details about the MITES 40th Anniversary Kick-Off Weekend will be made available here.

Photo Credit: MIT OEOP
Excerpt from OEOP - Shawna Young, Executive Director

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dr. Norman Fortenberry: A Pioneer in Engineering Education

June 14, 2015

Dr. Norman Fortenberry, is Executive Director of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). ASEE is an international society of individual, institutional, and corporate members founded in 1893 and committed to promoting global excellence in engineering and engineering technology instruction, research, public service, professional practice, and societal awareness.

Dr. Fortenberry is an MIT Alumnus receiving the following three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a specialty in applied mechanics and design.

Sc.D., Mechanical Engineering (Course II)
1984 – 1991

S.M., Mechanical Engineering (Course II)
1983 – 1984

S.B., Mechanical Engineering (Course II)
1979 – 1983

Prior to his current responsibilities, Dr. Fortenberry is founding Director of the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education (CASEE) at the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). At NAE he was responsible for designing and developing the programs, organizational linkages, and personnel required to implement an ambitious new effort to achieve and maintain excellence in engineering education.

Prior to joining NAE in October, 2002, Dr. Fortenberry held managerial positions within the National ScienceFoundation (NSF) Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) including Senior Advisor and Division Director. In these positions, he was responsible for managing more than 40 professional and administrative staff members as well as program budgets in excess of $300 million. Dr. Fortenberry's programmatic responsibilities included undergraduate education as well as broadening access and participation in science and engineering at all levels by underrepresented populations and institutions.

Dr. Fortenberry served as Executive director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (The GEM Consortium) and was Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Director of Minority Engineering programs at Florida A&M University/Florida State University College of Engineering in Tallahassee, Florida. He attended MIT and was awarded the S.B., S.M., and Sc.D. degrees, all in mechanical engineering, with a specialty in applied mechanics and design.

Biography extract from Pathways To Science, March 2013, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrating MIT Capital Givers

As we continue with a new chapter of giving through the MIT Capital Fund, The Blacks at MIT History Project would like to thank those who have supported us with their generous gifts in the past, present, and future.  A new initiative begins with the MIT Crowdfund site (through the end of June 2015) in contributing your financial support to this ongoing research project.  "The Grid" is one of a series of image "mosaics" denoting our capital contributing supporters.

Thank You
The Blacks at MIT History Project Team

The GRID image mosaic series

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Research Narrative

The Blacks at MIT History Project is a continuous research effort and collaborative endeavor sponsored by the MIT Office of the Provost. The project is archiving the historical achievements and influence that students, staff, faculty, and management have accomplished for MIT in their ongoing careers.

The Blacks at MIT History Project mission is to research, identify, and produce scholarly curatorial content on the black experience at MIT since opening its doors in 1865. This Project was founded and is directed by Dr. Clarence G. Williams, Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies & Planning Emeritus and Former Special Assistant to the President, MIT. He is an innovator in higher education for four decades and a recipient of a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Counseling Psychology.

Dr. Williams joined the administration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972 as Assistant Dean of the Graduate School and was named Special Assistant to the President and Chancellor for Minority Affairs in 1974. From 1980-1982, he served as Acting Director of the Office of Minority Education, and from 1984-1997, he assumed additional responsibilities as Assistant Equal Opportunity Officer, along with a broader scope of the Special Assistant position, to serve the MIT community as an ombudsperson. From 1992 until his status changed to emeritus in 2004, he taught race relations and diversity courses in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He is serving, since 1995, as the Founder and Director of the Blacks at MIT History Project.

The project’s continuing objective is to place the black experience at MIT in its full and appropriate context, by researching and disseminating a varied set of materials. It is also exposing a larger community of interests — both inside and outside MIT — to this rich and historically significant legacy. We are currently conducting oral history video interviews with black tenured faculty at MIT. The videos explore each faculty member’s passion for what he or she does, involving their professional fields, their research and teaching, and their personal journey. How did they become who they are? What was the path that led them to MIT? The videos will be part of a web-based history, with multimedia access by the public including particular outreach to young people. Additionally, the project is producing audio and image narratives reflecting on the continuing legacy of the this unique and important population within the MIT community experience.

The current Blacks at MIT History Project website is in the final stages of a major update, yet it can still be accessed. This blog highlights ongoing efforts regarding the project's initiatives.

The Blacks at MIT History Project Team

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Pioneering Student in the 20th Century

Gloria Green

Graduating from Washington, DC's prestigious Dunbar High School in 1949, Gloria Green was on the path to take an unprecedented challenge.  Gloria became the second black woman to attend MIT since1905 when Marie Turner enrolled, Course IV (Architecture). Gloria's academic aspiration was also in pursuit of becoming a professional architect. After the first semester, plans for an alternative academic route became a reality. She attended a junior college, reapplied to MIT and then attended for one year. Her pioneering spirit at MIT within the class of 1954 was remarkable. The class produced a future MIT President and Chairman of the Corporation, Dr. Paul E. Gray. Dr. Gray and Gloria Green freshmen class yearbook pictures were posted side by side alphabetically. It was a special time for Gloria during that initial year in 1949, and also a historic moment as well for MIT. Gloria later married, raised a family and completed an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of the District of Columbia (UDC).

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Stamp Honors MIT's First Black Graduate

The 38th stamp in the United States Postal Service "Black Heritage" series honors architect and educator Robert Robinson Taylor of the Class of 1892.

Courtesy of U.S. Postal Service

Nancy DuVergne Smith | MIT Alumni Association
February 12, 2015
Press Inquiries

The U.S. Postal Service honored one of MIT’s own today, issuing a stamp to honor architect and educator Robert Robinson Taylor. A member of the Class of 1892, Taylor was MIT’s first African-American graduate, and is believed to be the country’s first academically trained black architect.

Among other accomplishments, Taylor supervised the design and construction of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama — now Tuskegee University — while also overseeing the school’s programs in industrial education and the building trades.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif discussed Taylor’s contributions in remarks at today's dedication ceremony at the National Postal Museum in Washington.

“As we honor the legacy of Robert Taylor, today’s ceremony reminds us that he was a builder … not only of structures, but of communities … and an architect who designed not only a campus of national importance … but a more promising future for generations to come,” Reif said. “Robert Robinson Taylor truly represents the best of MIT.”

More about Robert Robinson Taylor and this Commemoration.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Robert Robinson Taylor

From 'Tech' to Tuskegee:
The Life of Robert Robinson Taylor

by Dr. Clarence G. Williams

Few blacks were part of the MIT community in its early years, even though founder William Barton Rogers had shown a keen interest in issues relating to race. In 1863, Rogers had praised blacks--particularly the bravery exhibited by black troops during the Civil War--and noted "the capacity of these people for knowledge and training."(1) The earliest evidence of blacks at MIT dates from the 1870s, more than a decade later, in photographs of service staff in the old drill hall and gymnasium on Boylston and Clarendon Streets in downtown Boston. "Jones' Lunch," a small cafeteria located at one end of the gym, was run by a black caterer named Jones, with the assistance of a small staff of black cooks, washers, and waiters. Evidently there were no black faculty and no black students at MIT at the time. The first black student to attend MIT appears to have been Robert Robinson Taylor, who enrolled in 1888.(2)Almost seventy more years elapsed before the first black faculty member--Joseph R. Applegate, a linguist--was hired in 1955.(3)

More about Robert Robinson Taylor at MIT Libraries.