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First Black Professor of Physics at UChicago, former director of Argonne and NSF, and former president of the American Association for Advancement of Science


Walter Massey, a prominent physicist, has worked tirelessly to advocate for science awareness and education, and to bring diversity to STEM fields. Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on April 5, 1938, he received a Ford Foundation Fellowship at age 16 to attend Morehouse College, where he studied math and theoretical physics. Earning a BS degree in 1958, he went on to study at Washington University in St. Louis, receiving a doctoral degree in physics in 1966.


Massey started his career as a post-doctoral researcher at Argonne National Laboratory in 1966. He then joined the faculty of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1968, followed by Brown University in 1970. At both institutions, he implemented and participated in programs aimed at increasing diversity in the sciences. Massey then returned to Argonne in 1979 to serve as its director, with a joint appointment as professor of physics at the University of Chicago. Later in his career, the scientist and educator would serve as president of both Morehouse College and the School of the Art Institute (SAIC), and provost and senior vice president of the nine-campus University of California system, with oversight of the three National Labs: Livermore, Los Alamos and LBL.


Massey’s advocacy work has included heading the Chicago Mayoral Task Force on High-Tech Development in 1982 and serving on the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Science and Tech. He became president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1989 and director of the National Science Foundation in 1990. Massey has sat on numerous civic, scientific, educational and corporate boards. He currently serves as chair for the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and the City Colleges of Chicago Board of Trustees, as an emeritus member of the University of Chicago Board of Trustees, president emeritus of both Morehouse College and SAIC, and retired chairman of Bank of America.

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Photo Source: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf7-00725], Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

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