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Provost Wrighton announces new MLK visting faculty program

MIT has expanded efforts to bring minority scholars to the Institute by inaugurating the Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors Program.

Provost Mark S. Wrighton will formally announce the program January 14 at a reception honoring Professor Henry C. McBay, the widely respected Morehouse College chemistry professor, who was MIT's first Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar in 1991. The occasion will celebrate the recent publication by the MIT Press of Henry C. McBay: A Chemical Festschrift, a book stemming from Dr. McBay's participation as the first MLK Visiting Scholar.

Professor Wrighton said the new MLK Visiting Professors Program was encouraged by a proposal from MIT's Martin Luther King Committee. The committee, which for more than two decades has planned annual events at MIT to celebrate the life and legacy of the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968, proposed the program as an expansion of the MLK Visiting Scholars Program which it conceived four years ago. The objective of the new program is to support six to 12 MLK Visiting Professors in each academic year, the provost said.

Thompson named to chair

Also to be formally announced by the provost on January 14 will be the appointment of Marcus Aurelius Thompson, the noted violist, as the first Robert R. Taylor Professor. MIT created the chair to honor Mr. Taylor, the Institute's first African American alumnus, who graduated in 1892. Mr. Taylor, a distinguished architect, designed most of the buildings at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Professor Thompson has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1973 (see article on page 8).

Henry C. McBay: A Chemical Festschrift opens with a foreword by Professor Wrighton, the CIBA-Geigy Professor of Chemistry, who wrote:

". Dr. McBay was an obvious candidate as the first incumbent in this (the MLK Visiting Scholars) program because of his well known and outstanding contributions to scientific and, particularly, chemical education. Through his teaching and mentorship, he has enriched the careers of a large number of students, many of whom have gone on to graduate work in science and medicine. The amplifying power of Dr. McBay's efforts is indicated by the fact that so many of those who studied and learned with him are now teaching others.

"At this stage in our country's history, it is becoming increasingly clear that our continued ability to lead the world in science and technology is going to require that we tap the abilities of all of our people, and particularly of African Americans, as scientists and engineers. MIT has dedicated itself to the goal of broader participation by African Americans at all levels in its educational and research programs. Further, and perhaps more important, we are determined to help encourage African Americans across the nation to explore advanced educational opportunities. In this effort we are greatly encouraged by the example of Dr. Henry McBay."

Following the foreword is a 41-page biography of Professor McBay by Kenneth R. Manning, MIT professor of the history of science. The volume is edited by chemistry professors William J. Jackson of the University of California at Davis, and Billy Joe Evans of the University of Michigan. The book is the proceedings of a special symposium MIT held to celebrate Professor McBay's outstanding contributions. The 11 technical papers, reflecting Professor McBay's universal approach to teaching chemistry, cover many fields including analytic, inorganic, physical and general chemistry.

Details of program

Professor Wrighton presented details of the new MLK Visiting Professors Program to the Academic Council, department and section heads, and faculty coordinators for minority faculty recruiting in a January 10 memorandum.

He said the program "offers another networking element to ultimately enhance the representation of minority scholars on the MIT faculty."

Appointments are open to members of all minority groups, but there will be an emphasis on African Americans, he said. "As always, in connection with outstanding minority scholars, we should be mindful of the possibility of a regular faculty appointment to such individuals," he said.

The Office of the Provost will support the MLK Visiting Professors with salary, benefits and in other fiscal matters. Resources for the program will be drawn from general Institute funds.

"Inquires regarding this program should be directed to me," the provost told his faculty colleagues. "We are anxious to move promptly toward the appointment of our first Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors."

Appointments are expected to be for not less than one academic term or longer than two academic years, but exceptions will be considered. Individuals wishing a copy of the Provost's Program Announcement may contract him via e-mail, , or at x3-1971.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 11, 1995.

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