Black MIT Faculty and Alumni Continue Legacy of Achievement

Black MIT Faculty and Alumni Continue Legacy of Achievement

Honorees (from left): Marcus Thompson, Melissa Nobles, and Paula Hammond. Image: Clinton Blackburn ‘03
Black Alumni of MIT honorees (from left): Marcus Thompson, Melissa Nobles, and Paula Hammond. (Image: Clinton Blackburn ‘03)

The Black Alumni of MIT (BAMIT) honored the recent appointments of three notable Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors: Paula T. Hammond, Ph.D., head of the Chemical Engineering Department; Melissa Nobles, Ph.D., dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; and Marcus Thompson, Ph.D., Institute Professor. The BAMIT reception gathered colleagues and friends to pay tribute to these distinguished professors not only for their accomplishments, but to honor ‘the family,’ part of the rich but seldom explored legacy of blacks at MIT. The three back-to-back appointments of black faculty since MIT opened its doors in 1865 are nothing but historic.

[Related: New #BlackLivesMatter Course Comes to Dartmouth College]

Paula T. Hammond is the first black female graduate of MIT to become head of an MIT academic department (Chemical Engineering) in the School of Engineering. Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering, notes, “She has a deep knowledge of the Institute and has led a remarkable career as a researcher and educator.”
[MIT News Office, 13 July 2015]

Melissa Nobles became the first black dean of one of the five academic schools. She 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. 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.”
[MIT News, 21 May 2015]

Marcus Thompson became the first black professor to receive MIT’s highest faculty honor: Institute Professor. He joins a small group of Institute Professors at MIT, now numbering 13, along with 10 Institute Professors Emeriti. Thompson is one of three faculty members to be named Institute Professor since 2008. According to MIT Provost Martin Schmidt, “Such appointments recognize exceptional distinction by a combination of leadership, accomplishment, and service in the scholarly, educational, and general intellectual life of the Institute and wider community.”
[MIT News, 29 June 2015]

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