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Walter Massey

      . . . President, Morehouse College. Former director of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Massey was provost and senior V-P/academic affairs of the University of California where he oversaw the U.S. Department of Energy‚s National Laboratories; V-P/Research at the University of Chicago and director of the Argonne National Lab; and dean of the college and full professor physics at Brown University.  A Morehouse graduate, Dr. Massey received his master‚s and Ph.D. in physics from Washington University and has studied quantum liquids and solids. Widely honored, Dr. Massey sits on major American corporation and foundation Boards and is active in national and international organizations.

Excerpts3:46 secs
[This Program was recorded September 14, 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

      Race and ethnicity do not equal „diversity,š says the distinguished President of Morehouse College, Dr. Walter Massey. He‚s convinced Morehouse is among the handful of places approaching people‚s differences effectively. How can he talk about „diversityš from within an all-male, predominantly black college? Easily, Dr. Massey maintains. Look, as Morehouse does, to the true differences individuals bring to situations, groups and societies. And since Morehouse students come from all kinds of backgrounds, from all over America and 22 other countries, they are asked to look at the differences within their own student body. Dr. Massey reminds us, if reminding is needed, that we cannot assume people are the same because they may look more alike than different.

      Dr. Massey is also the former head of the National Science Foundation (NSF).  He has been at the highest levels of America‚s educational institutions, currently sits on the Boards of some of the world‚s leading corporations and foundations and is, in addition, a research physicist. So Dr. Massey feels no need to stop with higher education as he broadens the definition of „diversity.š A significant strength of the entire American research enterprise, he believes, is in the diversity of the ways in which scientists can seek money to support research (though he is quick to remind us that such money is in distressingly short supply.)

      nd variety is also one of the great strengths of America‚s education system itself, Dr. Massey maintains. He thinks it is stronger by virtue of the many quite different, successful models we have from which to learn, all around the country -- from schools that have environments so open that there are no classes at all to those which are strict and have hierarchically arranged curricula. While Dr. Massey is confident there are things that standardized tests can successfully assess, he reminds us there are probably as many ways to evaluate learning as there are ways to learn. So he urges caution toward testing, concerned that we not lose any of the richness variety offers.

      Dr. Massey‚s experience as a youngster educated in the 50s in America‚s South is a sharp reminder to stay open to surprise.  He recalls excellent black teachers, often much more qualified than their white counterparts. Why? Because Mississippi denied black college students access to its own universities, paying instead for them to go North -- where they often received superior educations.

      ow, Dr. Massey is a veteran of decades of different approaches to integrating American campuses. His question, he says, has consistently been, „What is the end goal?š His answer: To educate people who can live in a multi-racial, multi-cultural society and do more than just get along, adults able to respect each other and themselves, in the society. That requires, he believes, that students have a full sense of their own culture, respect for their own background and principles, and confidence in themselves.  People must be able, he says, to meet as equals across their differences, whatever they may be. That‚s the appropriate goal for all of education, he says, not just enough racial variety among students to look good on campus. The former, he assures us, is precisely what Morehouse College -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‚s alma mater -- and other academic institutions who are succeeding in this domain, are all about.

Conversation 1

Dr. Walter Massey recalls major stops on his life‚s journey from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which he left at 15 to attend Morehouse College, where he is now President. He gives examples of the similarities and differences among academic institutions to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell.

Conversation 2

Describing the vast reach of the University of California system, of which he was Provost, Dr. Massey recalls how the American scientific research community -- including the National Science Foundation (NSF) which he headed -- came into being after World War Two. He summarizes the strength of the American research enterprise as its diversity and recalls how profoundly the end of the Cold War affected it. He talks about the many ways in which he remains active in public policy forums. He describes the program which brought him to Morehouse as a youngster.

Conversation 3

Reflecting on the high quality of teaching and teachers he had in the segregated American South, Dr. Massey describesa surprisingly positive effect of segregation. He offers an explanation for why black Southern teachers were often more qualified than their white counterparts. An exploration of education in America is begun, starting with why Morehouse College has chosen to remain an all-male institution. Drawing on common experiences of the four remaining all-male American institutions of higher learning, Dr. Massey talks about the looming challenge of the current and projected decline in the number of males in higher education.  Dr. Massey highlights his concerns with a closer look at the implications of this decline for the African-American community. He points to causes, both educational and social.

Conversation 4

The complex subject of standardized testing is approached, with Dr. Massey eager for people to remember that there are a variety of styles for learning, teaching and evaluating what has been learned. Confident there are valid tests, he also points to things one cannot measure with standardized tests.  He calls us to consider those constraints, some of which he lists. The impact of culture on testing is considered, as Dr. Massey cautions against going to a rigid uniform system of testing before we know more. He affirms the many levels on which American higher education subscribes to the benefits of a multi-cultural approach. Remaining challenges to that concept are considered, with Dr. Massey hopeful for creative solutions.  He offers a refreshingly sophisticated view of „diversity.š

Conversation 5

Recalling his own and institutional experiences with shifting racial perceptions, Dr. Massey asks, „What is the end goal of having a mix of students on campus?š and proceeds to give his own answers. He tells how Morehouse and other colleges do this successfully, as well as what happens which academic institutions fail to do so. He applauds the variety of approaches which he believes is one of the strengths of American education. Basic problems facing American education are considered.

Conversation 6

Dr. Massey credits „curiosityš for his twin interests in physics and history, his avocation. He considers what the two have in common and how history can bring students into the sciences. He uses examples to assure us that major scientific discoveries often come from a research scientists' outside interests.


Special thanks to Dr. Massey‚s charming assistant, Mrs. Barbara Wardlaw; Morehouse College Director of Public Relations, Ms. Toni Mosley; and Ms. Rozell Green, Media Relations Manager in the Morehouse Office of Communication.

As always, The Commerce Club in Atlanta offered us all a warm welcome, for which we thank everyone it takes to make that happen.

Related Links:
Visit Morehouse College‚s website to learn more about this singular institution.

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