Walter Massey stands in his home leaning against a bookshelf; he is wearing a black turtleneck and grey slacks.

Former SAIC President Walter Massey is Featured in New York Times Profile

Dr. Walter Massey is not only a world-renowned physicist and the former president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he is also a lifelong supporter of Black students. A recent New York Times profile covers Massey’s journey through navigating the worlds of physics, academia, and civil rights advocacy. Massey’s career path has taken numerous twists and turns, with the constant thread of physics and advocacy running through it.

After receiving a degree in physics from Morehouse College and a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, Massey began working in a physics lab in Chicago where he would begin the research for his theory on the movement of sound in superfluid helium. He then took a position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the physics department because he felt he could make a difference in the lives of Black students. In fact, on his first night in Champaign, he bailed out a number of Black students who had been arrested for protesting. From there Massey worked in teaching and administrative roles at a number of educational institutions including Brown University, the University of California, and Morehouse College before coming to SAIC in 2010. Now Massey is overseeing the board of the Giant Magellan Telescope project in Chile.

“Once I get involved in something, I really get involved,” Massey says, “It’s hard for me to be on the periphery.”