Walter Massey, champion of art and science education, receives Vannevar Bush Award

Administrator, trustee emeritus and former faculty member honored for ‘unparalleled’ leadership

Two overarching principles have inspired Walter E. Massey’s groundbreaking career: that science and technology are necessary to sustain the nation’s quality of life and the standard of living of its citizens; and that the general public’s understanding of science and technology is a critical component of a democratic society.

Guided by these principles, Massey has worked for more than half a century to strengthen research capacity and science education in the United States and to increase the representation of minorities and women in science and technology.

On April 16, the National Science Board announced that Massey, senior adviser to the president of the University of Chicago, will receive its prestigious Vannevar Bush Award. The award, given by the board of the National Science Foundation, honors science and technology leaders who have made substantial contributions to the welfare of the nation through public service in science, technology and public policy.

Massey, who chairs the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and is a former member of the board of governors for the University of Chicago’s stewardship of Argonne National Laboratory, is being recognized for his exceptional lifelong leadership in science and technology. The range of institutions he has led with distinction ranges from physics to public policy to public and private boards to college president: The former UChicago professor is a former director of Argonne National Laboratory as well as president emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and of Morehouse College.

“Walter Massey’s breadth of contributions and remarkable leadership in science, technology and education are unparalleled,” said Kent Fuchs, chair of the National Science Board’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “Walter has dedicated his life to serving our citizens. Through his training in mathematics and physics, and his determined and extraordinary leadership, he has narrowed the gap between science and society with an immeasurable and lasting impact on our nation.”

Massey’s career includes serving as NSF director as well as executive leadership roles at Brown University, the University of California, Morehouse College and a host of influential boards and commissions.

In addition to Massey’s significant role in science and technology, he has worked to improve student access to the arts and to highlight their important role in fostering student creativity and achievement. He is particularly interested in the intersections between the arts and sciences and how exposure to both prepares students for future success and contributes to a more creative and dynamic society.

Further illustrating his dedication to both the arts and sciences, Massey is the only individual to serve as both president and chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as chair of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. He received both the Enrico Fermi Award for Science and Technology from the Chicago Historical Society and the Public Humanities Award from Illinois Humanities.

“Knowing so many of the previous Vannevar Bush awardees, and all that they have accomplished, I feel so honored to be included in their company,” Massey said. “Having served on the National Science Board and as National Science Foundation director, I fully recognize the significance of the award, and I will accept with a great deal of pride and humility.”

The award was established in 1980 in memory of Vannevar Bush, who served as a science adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, helped to establish federal funding for science and engineering as a national priority during peacetime, and was behind the creation of the National Science Foundation.

Massey will receive the award May 14 at the National Science Foundation’s annual award ceremony in Washington, D.C.