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Walter E. Massey

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Information about Walter E. Massey

Profile image of Walter E. Massey

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Physicist
Academic Administrator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
4/5/1938
Birth Location:
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Physicist
Academic Administrator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
4/5/1938
Birth Location:
Hattiesburg
See how Walter E. Massey is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

College president and physicist Walter E. Massey was born on April 5, 1938 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was raised by his step-father, Almar Cleveland Massey, and mother, Essie Nelson Massey. Segregated society made life difficult for him and his family but his parents raised him with the mentality to stay safe, be proud, and deal with discrimination. During the tenth grade at Royal Street High School, Massey was awarded a full scholarship after taking a Ford Foundation exam and he skipped the rest of high school to attend Morehouse College. Under the tutelage of his mentor, Professor Sabinus H. Christensen, he fell in love with physics his first semester and earned his B.S. degree in 1958. Christensen, encouraged him to attend Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri for graduate school. Massey earned his Ph.D. degree in physics at Washington University in 1966.

After graduate school, Massey briefly worked at Argonne National Laboratory before becoming a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was one of only four or five black professors out of the 3,000-member faculty, and he participated in every black faculty and student association. Massey left Illinois to teach at Brown University where he created the Inner City Teachers of Science program and eventually became dean of the College at Brown. After ten years, Massey left Brown to become the director of Argonne National Laboratory in 1979. Argonne was operated by the University of Chicago where Massey was also a physics professor. After management reform at Argonne, he became the first black vice president for research between 1984 and 1991. Massey was the founding chairman of the University of Chicago Development Corporation and served in that capacity from 1986 to 1991. In 1991, he was appointed as the director of the National Science Foundation, where he served until 1993. Massey was appointed as provost and vice president for academic affairs for the University of California system and its three national laboratories in 1993. Massey returned to Morehouse College, his alma mater, but this time in 1995 as college president. Massey was president at Morehouse until 2007, and in 2010 became president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Massey has always been committed to expanding opportunities for minorities in science education. He sat on the President's Council of Advisors, Science and Technology (PCAST) under both President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. Massey has been awarded more than twenty honorary doctorates and numerous awards for excellence in teaching. He has been active in several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Massey has also been active in a number of civic, cultural, and community organizations. His wife is Shirley Anne Massey, and he has two sons, Keith Barnett Anthony Massey and Eric Eugene Massey.

Walter Massey was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 13, 2002.

See how Walter E. Massey is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Walter Massey interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Walter Massey lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Walter Massey remembers his mother and father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Walter Massey shares childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Walter Massey relates how his parents taught him to handle racism
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Walter Massey recalls his elementary school activities and aspirations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Walter Massey recounts his summer visits to the North
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Walter Massey recalls his early impression of Chicago
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Walter Massey remembers his early interest in math
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Walter Massey remembers his high school jazz band
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Walter Massey explains how he got into Morehouse College at sixteen
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Walter Massey describes the academic encouragement he got at Morehouse College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Walter Massey recounts his undergraduate years at Morehouse College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Walter Massey remembers his professors at Morehouse College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Walter Massey recalls the influence of chapel on the Morehouse community
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Walter Massey explains what attracted him to physics
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Walter Massey recounts his involvement in Omega Psi Phi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Walter Massey recalls his other college extracurriculars
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Walter Massey discusses his work after graduating college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Walter Massey explains his transition to Washington University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Walter Massey recalls working towards his PhD at Washington University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Walter Massey recounts his tumultuous stint as a professor at University of Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Walter Massey details his work at Brown University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Walter Massey remembers becoming the first black director of Argonne National Laboratory
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Second slating of Walter Massey interview
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Walter Massey recalls the personal and professional impact of his tenure with Argon Labs
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Walter Massey explains why he restructured Argon's management
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Walter Massey remembers what he learned at Argon
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Walter Massey discusses some programs he implemented at Argon
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Walter Massey recounts his tenure as vice president of research at Argon
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Walter Massey discusses his association with Cordell Reed
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Walter Massey expresses his thoughts on the nuclear energy and waste
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Walter Massey recalls his work for the Governor's Commission of Science and Technology
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Walter Massey recounts his appointment as director of the National Science Foundation
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Walter Massey explains the history and purpose of the National Science Foundation
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Walter Massey remembers working with President George Bush Sr. at Camp David
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Walter Massey discusses issues of race and prejudice in the sciences
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Walter Massey recalls his projects and issues at the National Science Foundation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Walter Massey recalls a controversy of a new location for the NSF building
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Walter Massey discusses the importance of polar research
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Walter Massey recounts highlights from his career with the National Science Foundation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Walter Massey considers the contemporary state of scientific research
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Walter Massey remembers his transition to the University of California
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Walter Massey details his rise in the University of California system and his call to step in at Morehouse
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Walter Massey explains his decision to become president of Morehouse
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Walter Massey recalls highlights from his presidency at Morehouse
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Walter Massey discusses his wife, Shirley
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Walter Massey shares final reflections on his life and career