Walter Massey

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February 11, 2018

The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Walter Massey.


Dr. Walter MasseyWalter Massey was born in 1938 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Massey displayed a gift for mathematics as a child, and by the middle of high school his academic achievements had earned him a Ford Foundation fellowship to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from Morehouse in 1958 and his Ph.D. in physics from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1966.

Massey began working in 1966 as a member of the research staff at Argonne National Laboratory, which was operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by the University of Chicago. Two years later, Massey accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Illinois. In 1970, Massey was offered an associate professorship at Brown University, which he accepted and would soon after complete some of his most significant academic research to date, collaborating with Humphrey Maris on the study of changes in sound waves in superfluid helium. By 1975, he had been appointed a full professor and dean of the college. In 1979, Massey’s demonstrated success as a researcher and administrator at Brown led to his return to Argonne National Laboratory, this time as its director, in addition to which he was also appointed professor of physics at the University of Chicago.

Throughout his career, Dr. Massey worked as an advocate on behalf of science education and awareness. In concert with his roles at Argonne and the University of Chicago, in 1987 Massey was named president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, after having served as a board member for a number of years. He was vice president of the American Physical Society; chair of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB); and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors of Science and Technology (PCAST) in two presidential administrations. Massey has also served as a member of the National Science Board, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Massey was also founding chairman of the National Society of Black Physicists

In 1990, Dr. Massey was appointed as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) under President George H. W. Bush. In 1995, he assumed the presidency of his alma mater, Morehouse College. As president of Morehouse, Massey created a vision that would take the college into the new century, which involved reinvigorating its campus, refreshing its core curriculum, and reigniting its fundraising efforts. Massey retired from Morehouse in 2007. In 2009, he headed Bank of America, as its Chairman of the Board. He is currently chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as of July 1, 2016 and previously served as its president beginning in 2010.

He is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Citation of the American Association of Physics Teachers for his exceptional contributions to the teaching of physics, and was a member of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st century, a commission established by Senator Glenn to recommend methods for improving science and math teaching in the United States. Massey has been awarded more than thirty honorary doctorates and numerous awards for excellence in teaching.

His wife is Shirley Anne Massey, and he has two sons, Keith Barnett Anthony Massey and Eric Eugene Massey.