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Wesley Harris

Aerospace engineer Wesley L. Harris was born in Richmond, Virginia on October 29, 1 941. His parents, William Harris and Rosa Harris, worked in Richmond’s tobacco factories. As a child, Harris was intrigued by airplanes and learned to build different models. In the fourth grade, he won an essay contest about career goals with a paper on how he wanted to become a test pilot. After receiving his B.S. degree with honors in aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia in 1964, Harris enrolled at Princeton University and graduated from there with his M.S. degree in aerospace and mechanical sciences in 1966 and his Ph.D. degree in aerospace and mechanical sciences 1968.

After completing his Ph.D. at Princeton, Harris taught at the University of Virginia and at Southern University before joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972 where he served as a professor of aeronautics and astronautics. He established MIT’s first Office of Minority Education in 1975 in order to help retain minority students and improve their performance. In 1985, Harris was appointed Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut; and from 1990 to 1995, he served as vice president and chief administrative officer at the University of Tennessee Space Institute and then as associate administrator for aeronautics NASA. In 2003, Harris was named head of the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT in 2003.

Harris’ many honors and achievements include serving as chair and member of various boards and committees of the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Science Board, and several state governments. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Helicopter Society. The National Academy of Engineering elected Harris as a Fellow for contributions to understanding of helicopter rotor noise, for encouragement of minorities in engineering, and for service to the aeronautical industry.

Wesley L. Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.004

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2013

Last Name

Harris

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Princeton University

University of Virginia

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Wesley

Birth City, State, Country

Richmond

HM ID

HAR38

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

The Greatest Gift Is To Give.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

10/29/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak (Rib Eye)

Short Description

Aerospace engineer Wesley Harris (1941 - ) was head of the department of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. He was also elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to the understanding of helicopter rotor noise, for encouragement of minorities in engineering and for service to the aeronautical industry.

Employment

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

UTSI

University of Connecticut

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

University of Virginia

Southern University

Harris Analytics and Planning, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Wesley Harris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris talks about the occupations of his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about his mother and his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his father's restaurant

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about his twin brother William Harris pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris talks about his twin brother William Harris pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes walking through the white district to get to school as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris talks about his mentors in school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about his high school science fair project

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his aspiration as a fourth grader to be a test pilot

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about the University of Virginia-pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris describes his time at the University of Virginia-pt 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about his mentors at the University of Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes the group of African American students at the University of Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Virginia pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Virginia pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about the 1963 March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes the impact of the U.S. space program on his education

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris describes his decision to attend Princeton University for graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about his mentor at Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about anti-Semitism in Ivy League schools

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his doctoral research

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris describes how he was recruited by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris describes the findings of his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his time at Southern University pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about his time at Southern University pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris explains why he left Southern University pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris explains why he left Southern University pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about his time as a professor at the University of Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris talks about his children and his first wife

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris describes being a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris describes his research on helicopter rotor acoustics

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris describes his work on coastal ocean radar with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris talks about receiving the Irwin Sizer Award

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris describes his time at the University of Connecticut

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris describes his time at the University of Tennessee Space Institute

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about the University of Tennessee Space Institute

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris describes being an associate administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes being an associate administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris reflects on his work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris describes why he left the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about the Lean Aerospace Initiative and Lean Sustainment Initiative

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about becoming a member of the National Academy of Engineering

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris describes his time at Arizona State University

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris talks about the aeronautics and astronautics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris talks about Leon Trilling

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris describes the James Shirley incident at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about the flight tests of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris provides his predictions on the direction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris talks about STEM education in the United States

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Wesley Harris talks about his research on the fluid dynamics of blood flow pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Wesley Harris talks about his research on the fluid dynamics of blood flow pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Wesley Harris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Wesley Harris reflects on his life

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Wesley Harris reflects on his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Wesley Harris talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Wesley Harris talks about his involvement in football during high school pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Wesley Harris talks about his involvement in football during high school pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Wesley Harris talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Wesley Harris talks about his high school science fair project
Wesley Harris reflects on his work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Transcript
You were talking about this cloud chamber in the break, but how did you build that? I mean you say kids ask you today, how did you do it without the internet, right?$$Right. So the idea was that you wanted to observe, in my case, the trajectory of alpha particles and so how do you do that? Alpha particles are fairly large and high energy so if you have a, an environment where they can collide and you visibly can see the collision or the results of the collision then you could in fact track them. So if you had in those days these old radioactive Rayon watches, you could clip off a piece of the dial and that would serve as your alpha particle. To get the condensement atmosphere you build a box that was insulated, put in that box dry ice, okay, and on top you would put a damp wet cloth which when it interacts with the dry ice would form a cloud. And then you look at the, look through the top, alpha particles projecting through the cloud coming down, you see the collisions and you could track it. So the idea was to generate the correct environment. And the cloud chamber is what we called it in those days, still call it a cloud chamber. But you had to build a box, put ice in there, dry ice, not water ice but it had to be very cold and get the condensation, get the alpha particles, there it was. So, but Eloise Bose Washington, who is this woman, who is she, why do I remember her name so distinctly, why do I remember her even more so than Edmonds and Street and Mrs. Hartley and even Judon? Eloise Bose Washington one of the rare black women that went north in the 40s [1940s] to the University of Pennsylvania [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] to earn a masters degree in physics, you may ask well why in the hell would a black woman go north in the 40s [1940s] for a masters degree in physics and come back to the south? What could possibly be on her mind? What was she going to do? What job was open to her? None, other than the classroom, but she had a degree in physics. So the blessing was that I was one of her students. Not only was she a good teacher but she had the foundation. She knew physics okay, and therein lies the success. Therein lies the opportunity. Therein lies the greatest gift, all right, that Eloise Bose Washington was there or I was there when she was, let's put it that way, a tremendous spirit, a short woman, rather wide, rather big, again the tough love. "Wesley, you will go to the University of Virginia, okay?" And she said that because she never forgave herself for the third place finish at the University of Virginia. We had won first in the black community, the black competition and then she said "Wesley, we'll go to University of Virginia [Charlottesville, Virginia] with the cloud chamber and we finished third and she always thought she was the reason for it.$$Hmm.$$Yeah, she did. She--so I said "Yes, Ms. Washington, I will go. But tell me why do you want me to go?" She said, "Two reasons." She says, "Wesley, you are black and there's no way those white folks up there would ever misinterpret who you are whenever they see you." Second, she says, "You will be successful and that's very important to us that you succeed at the University of Virginia." Okay.$$So this is, I just want to go back to that for a second cause she's saying something really significant here because it's often said when someone, some African American succeeds that it's because he's part white or something, you know, he's a lighter guy and that sort of thing.$$Right.$$So she's actually saying, she's focusing on your color?$$Yeah.$$She's saying--$$Yeah.$$--you're the perfect person to--$$Yes, yes.$$--you'll really shake things up to let people know what our capacity is cause you're unmistakably--$$Right, yeah that was a part of her calculation, make no doubt about it, yes, right.$$Okay.$$Because in her generation and also in mine--$$[BRIEF INTERRUPTION]$$Okay, all right. So--$$Yeah, so Eloise Washington did want to make that point that it was about demonstrating scholarship by, for and about black folks in a way that's unmistakable, that it is of this, it is of black folks. And that was something that she wanted me to understand that that's the--remember now just a rising senior in high school and she made that point very, very clear, "You are black and they will not misinterpret that and you will be successful."$$Okay.$$So that's Eloise Bose Washington.$While at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], you were elected a fellow of the American Helicopter Society?$$Yes, oh yes. Yes, that's--okay, so the rotorcraft community obviously since the work I did here at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts] in main rotor acoustics has always been a part of my aero portfolio. In a lot of ways, rotorcraft was a stepchild. Most of NASA's effort was focused on fixed wing aircraft. The U.S. Military, especially the U.S. Army has always needed better, more efficient helicopters. So working with a man named George Stingley, we developed a joint program involving NASA and DOD [Department of Defense], three-headed program after-anyway, involving the rotorcraft industry to share, to develop and share common technology. And that, no one had done that before to bring those four, those three players, NASA, the rotorcraft industry and the U.S. Army together to solve common research problems related to rotorcraft where NASA put in money, DOD, U.S. Army put in money and the rotorcraft industry put in money. So that was bringing together those three stakeholders in a way to find a common solution to common problems and that's, was, I guess enough for the Helicopter Society to say, "Make this guy a fellow."$$Okay, okay. And also you were, you received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. I guess be-- is that just before you left?$$Yeah.$$Okay.$$I think those things just, you just breathe long enough you get them. I, I attach no significance to those things at all.$$Okay. So when you look back at your stint at NASA, what are you the most proud of?$$High-speed civil transport, that technology, fascinating stuff, fascinating stuff.$$Okay, okay. Now--$$There's something else too.$$Okay.$$Most Americans know of the Russia-U.S. Space Treaty. At the same time that was developed there was a treaty or an agreement on aeronautics okay? So a group of us went to Moscow [Russia] several times to develop the document that Chernomyrdin [Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin] on the Russian side and Vice President [Al] Gore on the U.S. side signed, so-called agreement in aeronautics, a similar one in space, okay?$$Okay, so this is signed by Al Gore the vice president?$$Right and the vice premier Chernomyrdin of, for Russia.$$Okay.$$Okay, so I led that delegation. A member of that delegation was Woodrow Whitlow and many others as well, but that was an interesting, exciting time, couldn't leave the hotels at night. We were certain our bags were always searched when we left, riots on the Moscow subway. In the early 90s [1990]s, they just had collapsed the Soviet Union so you saw abject poverty in Russia, I mean unbelievable poverty, buildings with holes in them, government buildings, no toilets, no heat in the winter.$$Yeah, that's really critical in Russia.$$Oh goodness, yes. We were in meetings all day with overcoats on and gloves.$$In a government facility?$$Yeah, this is (Saugi?) [ph.], that's--this was their corresponding, this was their facility corresponding to our Tullahoma [Tennessee]. We have AEDC, the Arnold Engineering Development Center, the world's largest aerospace test facility, they had something called (Saugi?), comparable with no heat, holes in the walls, grass never cut.$$Yeah.$$That was Russia in the early 90s [1990s]. Not like that now but they had a really down period man. We were told to do this by the way, to develop this agreement not by NASA but by the State Department because they didn't want the Russian scientists to find their way to Iran or North Korea or some other place that would cause trouble later.

Oliver McGee, III

Civil engineer and academic administrator, Oliver G. McGee III, graduated from the The Ohio State University (OSU) in 1981 with his B.S. degree in civil engineering. McGee went on to earn advanced degrees from the University of Arizona, receiving his M.S. degree in civil engineering and his Ph.D. degree in engineering mechanics and aerospace engineering in 1983 and 1988, respectively. He was a graduate teaching associate in the department of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, while attending the University of Arizona. From 1986 to 1988, McGee worked as a senior research associate at OSU. In 2004, McGee earned his M.B.A. degree in business administration and finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
 
In 1997, McGee was appointed senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the U.S. President. In 1988, McGee began teaching at OSU as an assistant professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics. In 1992, McGee became the first African American faculty to be promoted to associate professor with tenure in the century and a quarter year history of OSU’s engineering college. He then became, in 1992, associate professor of civil and aerospace engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Along the way, he served in a number of visiting professorships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including the first opening class of MIT’s Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors. Later, McGee was promoted to full professor and chair of the Department of Civil Engineering & Geodetic Science in 2001, becoming the first African-American full professor and chair in the 150-year history of OSU’s engineering college. Between 1999 and 2001 McGee served as the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of transportation for technology policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and special assistant to the President at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Howard University hired McGee as the school's very first vice president for research and compliance in 2007. Under his leadership, the new office raised the profile of the Howard principal investigator, launched the first-ever research communications documents Research at The Capstone, and constructed a new central management for research facility at Howard University’s C. B. Powell Building, adjacent to the school’s Louis B. Stokes Science Library.
 
For his research and education initiatives, McGee has been awarded grants totaling more than $8 million. In 2007, he founded the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, Partnership Possibilities for America. The firm’s concepts on education, economics, and politics are covered in a number of McGee’s many books and publications. In 2012, he submitted three books for publication, including Bridging the Black Research Gap, available online through Amazon Create Space and Revilo Group Publishing, L.L.C. McGee has authored more than 50 articles appearing in academic journals such as, ASME Journal of Turbomachinery, ASME Journal of Fluids Engineering, ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics, International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, International Journal of Solids and Structures, ASCE Journal of Engineering Mechanics, and Civil Engineering Systems. For his contributions, McGee has been honored by numerous organizations, including the American Council on Education (ACE), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).
 
Oliver G. McGee III was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 11, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.235

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/11/2012

Last Name

McGee

Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

George

Schools

The Ohio State University

University of Arizona School of Law

Woodward Career Technical High School

University of Chicago

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

First Name

Oliver

Birth City, State, Country

Cincinnati

HM ID

MCG05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cambridge, England

Favorite Quote

Our Words Create Our World.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

10/28/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Civil engineer and engineering professor Oliver McGee, III (1957 - ) was the former chair of the Civil & Environmental Engineering & Geodetic Science Department at The Ohio State University. McGee was also a full professor of mechanical engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Howard University.

Employment

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

United States Department of Transportation

Ohio State University

Howard University

Georgia Institute of Technology

United Negro College Fund

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Favorite Color

Mulatto

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Oliver McGee's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about his sister's artistry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee talks about his interest in learning more about his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee talks about his mother's upbringing and her passion for education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Oliver McGee talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Oliver McGee talks about his paternal great-grandfather's relation to Sitting Bull and his interest in learning more about his ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Oliver McGee talks about Cincinnati Woodward High School

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Oliver McGee talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee talks about his likeness to his mother, her influence on him, and her career at the University of Cincinnati

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee describes his earliest childhood memory and talks about his father's career as a fireman in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about his elementary school teachers and his early aptitude in math

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee talks about his struggles with reading as a child and how he overcame it

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee describes his childhood neighborhood, his interest in classical music, and the culture of Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Oliver McGee describes the sights, sounds and smells of Cincinnati, Ohio and talks about his mentors

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Oliver McGee talks about his academic performance in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Oliver McGee talks about race relations in Cincinnati, Ohio during his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee talks about his parents' difficult relationship, their divorce, and his decision to live with his mother

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee reflects on the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Kennedy family

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee talks about improving his reading skills, starting high school, and his mother's parenting and influence

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about witnessing domestic violence during his childhood and the importance of perseverance

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee talks about his high school geometry teacher and learning Euclidean Geometry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee talks about his experience as a drum major at Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Oliver McGee talks about his high school band and his musical interests

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Oliver McGee talks about his high school math preparation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Oliver McGee talks about the demographics of Woodward High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee reflects on his high school counseling, his concerns about education policy, and his concerns for the education of future generations

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee talks about his job at McDonald's and his mother's aspirations for him

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee talks about his decision to attend The Ohio State University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about Minnie McGee's influence on his decision to major in engineering at The Ohio State University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee talks about the history of drum majors and the band at The Ohio State University and his experience as an understudy to Dwight Hudson

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee talks about football and his experience as a drum major at The Ohio State University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Oliver McGee talks about his professors and his experience in the engineering department at The Ohio State University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Oliver McGee talks about meeting Dr. Julian Manly Earls and his mentors at the NASA Lewis Research Center and the University of Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee talks about his dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee talks about the relevance of his doctoral research on the field today and the goals of scientific research

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee talks about adjusting to the environment in Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about African Americans pursuing careers in academia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee talks about his experience teaching at The Ohio State University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee talks about his professional awards and his appointment to the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Oliver McGee talks about Charles Vent's influence on his appointment to the White House Fellows Program

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Oliver McGee talks about being appointed as a White House Fellow

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Oliver McGee talks about his experience as a White House Fellow and his interest in science policy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee talks about his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his mentee, Keith Coleman

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee talks about meeting Bob Nash and his influence on his appointment to the Department of Transportation

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee reflects on his experience serving in the White House and talks about the people who were instrumental in his career there

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about leaving the White House, his decision to study business, and his experience at the Wharton School

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee talks about his experience at the University of Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee talks about his book, "Jumping the Aisle: How I Became a Black Republican in the Age of Obama"

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee talks about graduating from the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee talks about his interest in philanthropy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Oliver McGee talks about his experience teaching at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Oliver McGee talks about his desire to become a university president

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Oliver McGee reflects on his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Oliver McGee talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Oliver McGee reflects on his life choices and talks about his family and friends

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Oliver McGee talks about his books

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Oliver McGee talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Oliver McGee describes his photos

DASession

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Oliver McGee talks about his experience as a White House Fellow and his interest in science policy
Oliver McGee talks about his book, "Jumping the Aisle: How I Became a Black Republican in the Age of Obama"
Transcript
Okay. Now, what--can you choose what kind of duty you would perform at the White House as a Fellow or did they have certain categories for you?$$You do have to answer the questions in the essays, "What would you like to do as a White House Fellow?" And I had expressed that I'd like to work for the president's science advisor. I wanted to do some work I science policy and, you know, and that was inspired by what Chuck Vest would inspire me on, the public understanding of science at the time, and making science understanding--helpful for society, and give back to society. We do our work and our calculus in our laboratories, but it's got to be useful for society. So that was my focus. And the top 30 national finalists' interview was at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. And you go there for about two or three days. They give you this big, giant matrix where they're interviewing all of the commissioners of the White House Fellows Commission. And the reason they choose 30 is because they're actually selecting about 14 or 15 final fellows. And typically, they choose three or four of those from the military, because Johnson actually formed his fellowship from the military. He wanted to have the military complex to understand the policy side of government, and that's why he formed this White House fellowship. So, they typically have, you know, military folks going through. And they have sort of like a two of a kind, two of every kind, like in Noah's ark. And that was my first experience of being like a "reality" television program, "The Apprentice" or you might say whatever television shows you see in that, you know, that thing that you see on television where they're going through. So we were like Noah's ark; two of every kind. And so, they had two scientists; me and a young lady from Minnesota. And we just kind of raced our way through that for two or three days. And it was an endurance match. You see if you can keep up with the endurance and last. And I was doing so fine, and then I got confused in the matrix one day, I missed one of my interviews. And that interview was with the one renowned Roger Porter, who was Bush One's Economic and Domestic Policy Advisor. I got mixed up, a matrix, and I got the wrong time, and he was sitting where and saying, "Where's Oliver?" (laughs). Of course, Larry, I was bounced out (laughs). But I'm pretty sure it's part of the discussion, you know. I learned a valuable lesson that you have to be on time and time is a very important thing in life. It was a very important lesson I had to learn. Still learning it. But I want to share with the young people. Watch your time.$$Okay. So, you didn't get a chance to be--now, okay, what. You didn't get a chance to serve as a White House Intern.$$That's right. I didn't get selected.$$Right.$$Along the way, I had the help of Uncle Chuck. He was disappointed. He said, "Oh, well, I'm sorry about that, Oliver. You got to learn a valuable lesson on that." And then he--two weeks later, I got a call from John Deutch, who was the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Ernie Moniz, who was the Undersecretary of Science in the White House Science Office. And they wanted for me to meet in their offices at MIT. Ernie Moniz was the chair of the physics department, and John Deutch was a faculty member of the physics department. And those were two of the most momentous meetings I've ever had at that time in my career. John Deutch was a wonderful gentleman. Very, very soft spoken; very stately. His office was a highly decorated place of plaques from presidents dating back to Nixon. And he's been on so many boards and commissions. And he just simply looked at my resume and he asked me one question: "Oliver, why do you want to serve?"$$And (unclear) (simultaneous).$$And I told him, "I want to serve because I want to make a difference. I want to make a difference in science and technology. I want to understand science policies so we can increase the public's understanding of science. It's a very simple answer." And he said, "Thank you." And then I spoke with Ernie Moniz afterwards and he gave me a book on "Science with a National Interest," that he had wrote for President Clinton. And he said, "What do you think of this?" And we went over it and talked about it, and we talked about the issues in it. And it was a very delightful interview. And then two weeks later I got a call from the White House from Daryl Chubin. He said, "Hello. I'm the Assistant Director for Science and we've been looking at your background here, and we would like for you to come and talk with us, and the President's Science Advisor would like to have a conversation with you." After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I flew to Washington and had a day of interviews in the White House Science Office. It was--wonderful people. Wonderful people. Daryl Chubin and Bev Hartline and Arthur Bienenstock, who is in the upper administration at Stanford [University], and Duncan Moore. The science advisor was Jack Gibbons. I met Cynthia Chase, who was the secretary; and Donna Coleman. And they had a White House intern named James Bucksbaum (ph. splg.). And we all had lunch and everything. And then the two--oh, I'd say about a week later, they said, "When can you join us? We like you."$Now, what's the name of your latest book?$$"Jumping The Aisle: How I Became a Black Republican in the Age of Obama."$$Okay. Okay.$$That's a rhetorical question.$$Yes (laughs).$$It's really about belief in America. It's not about yea or nay or any candidate or anything like. Most people were looking at the book, "Why you're writing about America?" I find America fascinating under the [President Barack] Obama Era. You know, when we elected the first black president, we made America interesting. Whether you're for him or against him, you got to understand the ride is fun, and we're paying attention. And that's what black leadership does. We're so innovative when we do it. We have to be creative. We have to be nimble. We have to try and test things. Some things work, some things do not. We have to listen. We have to be able to mend our mistakes. We got to keep trying. And then we have to know when to step down. Because everything we're doing is history. So America is interesting under the Obama because it's about history. So I wrote a book about that, respecting the history and showing the way, and then looking to a future on getting to 2076. And those are wonderful principles of leadership learned from Mike Eusem (ph. splg.) at Wharton School in his leadership course. Oh, Mike Eusem. Mike Eusem had us climbing a tree to learn leadership at Wharton. When I went through that course, I was wondering, "Why are we climbing a tree?" But he was teaching us how leadership is dependent on those who are under you, as well as those who are pulling you up. The Age of Obama is doing that now. Valerie Jarrett, one of your HistoryMakers is doing that now. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are doing that now. The American people are doing that now. Because we're doing leadership and making the decision, independent decision.