2010 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
Deploying Our Gifts for the Betterment of Humankind: What Would Dr. King Say About Us?
Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union
MLK Leadership Awardees
Senior lecturer, emeritus, in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)
Graduate student, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Junior at the MIT Sloan School of Management
Senior vice president, Brick City Development Corp
In Memoriam: Leo Osgood, Jr (1946-2009)
Leo Osgood, Jr. (1946-2009)
2008 MLK Leadership Award
MIT Head Basketball Coach
Director, Office of Minority Education (OME)
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
"Tournament time comes. For the first time, I realized the real impact of my taking this position. Coaches came not only from the Boston area, but from all over the New England area to see this black coach at MIT. I must say that it was a real gratifying experience."
The 36th Annual MLK Celebration was dedicated to the memory of Leo Osgood, Jr., the former MIT basketball coach, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education who passed away November 11, 2009. MIT President Susan Hockfield praised Osgood for his commitment to the community.
“Leo was a guiding force behind this celebration for many years, and we are all very much the beneficiaries of his compassionate vision,” she said.
In 2008, Osgood was honored with an MLK Leadership Award for his co-leadership, with physics professor Michael S. Feld, of the MLK Committee over the past decade. Both were recognized for their instrumental roles in establishing the MLK Visiting Professor program.
A native of Charleston, S.C., Osgood came to Boston as a young boy. He received BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University in 1970. Osgood came to MIT in 1977, serving as head basketball coach and in various senior leadership roles, including director of the Office of Minority Education, until his retirement.
Remembering Leo Osgood [excerpts]
Anna Babbi Klein, Communications Manager
Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education
February 3, 2010
[Osgood's] legacy has many dimensions through which run consistent themes of leadership, caring, tenacity and inspiration. Leo was passionate and thoroughly engaged in fostering the development of underrepresented students, faculty and staff at MIT.
In his many roles at MIT, Leo had a profound impact on the students, faculty and staff with whom he worked. As we prepare to honor his legacy, we share the reflections and memories of his colleagues and former students as well as Leo’s own reflections on his experience at MIT.
I think we have come a way down that road but we still have a long way to go. As we move to the 21st century the demographics show a society with people from diverse backgrounds in the work force. College is a good place for people to learn to work with people of different social and economic backgrounds and feel comfortable working with them.
Leo reflecting on his twelve years as Dean on Call in 1999, Tech Talk:
When I was appointed the dean on call, my personal goal was to make sure that students who were having difficulty at MIT had a dean they could call during the day, nights and on weekends to discuss their problems and issues, no matter how small or large they seemed. It has been a very demanding but wonderful 12 years, and I leave with the thought that I made a difference in people's lives and a significant contribution to the MIT community during my tenure as the dean on call.
Leo talking with Dr. Clarence Williams [ed.] in Technology and the Dream (MIT Press, 2001):
Question: What advice would you give to young blacks coming in [to MIT]?
One, I think that you have to be well grounded in yourself and have confidence in yourself to do things. That’s number one. Two, you have to develop an infrastructure of colleagues who are going to be able to support you and understand what your goals are. Three, you really have to make a commitment to work hard.
On Leo’s first basketball tournament as Head Basketball Coach at MIT:
Tournament time comes. For the first time, I realized the real impact of my taking this position. Coaches came not only from the Boston area, but from all over the New England area to see this black coach at MIT. I must say that it was a real gratifying experience.
Leo discussing the impact of the MLK Visiting Professor Program in The Tech, 2003
[Leo co-chaired MIT's Martin Luther King Jr. Committee as it conceived and initiated the Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholars Program]:
It has created a presence of minority faculty on campus. Underrepresented minorities have interacted with them. It has been a win-win situation for the entire community. We have a long way to go. The core of minority faculty [are] retiring in the next 10 years and we have not done a good job to feed the system. There have been improvements, but it’s still not where it should be.
MIT President Emeritus
2006 MLK Leadership Award
In his frequent role as MIT’s “dean on call,” Leo had to respond to serious emergencies and deal with some of the most troubling issues that inevitably arise in a community of 10,000 students. He did so with common sense, compassion, fortitude, and professionalism. This was a role that was seldom seen or even understood by the larger community, but those of us who did know, deeply appreciated it and greatly respected him for it.
On a personal note, I also want to salute Leo’s leadership within the community of African-American administrators. He was deeply committed to the quality of this group, and to expanding it. If opportunities or tensions arose, I could always count on Leo for straightforward, honest advice and counsel. Leo was a good man, and I am among the legions who will miss him.
Associate Director, Global Education and Career Development Center
2009 MLK Leadership Award
Leo advocated strongly for every underrepresented student who attended MIT. He challenged them to not only graduate from here, but to leave with the highest marks possible. He even challenged them to think beyond their original thoughts of what they would do after MIT and how they, as an individual, would make a difference in this world.
PJ Sallaway ’97, MEng '97
Coach, as myself and countless others knew him, was a major influence on my life as he coached me during my first 3 years at MIT. As a young man, Coach’s strength and lessons went well beyond basketball, helping me develop into the person I am today. I will always remember Coach and am eternally grateful. Please know that although Coach is no longer with us in body, his influence lives with myself and many, many others.
Leo treated members of the MIT community like family. He was kind, welcoming, demanding, and caring. He encouraged you to do your best and wanted to help you achieve your dreams. He understood MIT and what it takes to be a success here. While at times he could be tough, ultimately, he had big heart. His memory will live on in many of us.
Former Student Director, Office of Minority Education
I will always remember Coach Leo fondly from my days in the Office of Minority Education at MIT. He was a great leader but an even better individual – he was always so concerned about the students’ well-being, something I will never forget.
Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology
Former Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs
His goal was to make MIT more welcoming for all students. He did all he could to help individual students succeed in a demanding environment. He did this both through improving MIT services and also through quiet but often decisive counseling and mentoring. Leo enjoyed working with young people and they enjoyed and valued him. Although he has passed on, there are countless MIT students for whom Leo will always be a vital presence, in their hearts and heads.
Associate Director of Development/Athletics (DAPER)
Leo was a caring and excellent teacher. I taught with him in the sport of tennis. He was always prepared and sought to have the students get to know each other, rather than just come to class. I really admired that about Leo. He truly cared about the students, their learning process, and developing community at MIT.
Ann Davis Goodrum
Former Assistant Dean, Office of Minority Education
I am a privileged and honored member of the troop who shared numerous years in Leo’s inner sanctum. We knew Leo’s sensitive, caring, and susceptible nature along with his outwardly detached side that administered in the midst of facts, data, and specifics. Friends, students, and alumni will reminisce about Leo as Coach Osgood or Dean Osgood. Like me, some will reminisce and say aloud “That was Leo and we miss his tenacity, commitment, resolve, and devoted friendship.”
Guillermo Chicas ‘03
I was one of the fortunate students to have Dean Osgood as my freshman advisor. My first semester at MIT was a tumultuous time and I was often lost and looking for answers that Dean Osgood so willingly provided. Specifically, Dean Osgood stood up and defended my talent in front of the Committee on Academic Performance when no one else believed in me. I was able to graduate in 4 years thanks to his encouragement and support. Thank you Mufasa. The impact you made in the lives of your students will never be forgotten.
Gerry Baron '85
Dr. Osgood was one of the people on the MIT administration who helped me to navigate the challenges that I faced. I was able to work with him more closely my last 2 years when I was a tutor, then the director for Project Interphase. He was very patient and understanding. I pray God’s peace and comfort for all the loved ones who are mourning his passing.
Mike Duffy '92, SM '94
Former MIT Assistant Basketball Coach
I was fortunate to both play for Coach Osgood ('88-92) as well as coach for him (92-94). He was as good as it gets. Like many of his ex-players, I appreciated him more and more as I got older, especially off the court. While he certainly had a number of "Leoisms" on the court, it is how he impacted my life off the court that I remember most. The number of lives he has touched and influenced is countless and he will be missed.
Bob Ferrara '67 (with help from Ray Ferrara ’67)
Former MIT Basketball Player
Senior Director for Strategic Planning, Communications and Alumni Relations
Like today, MIT fans were very good then also, and turned out en masse for the big game our senior year against Northeastern at Rockwell Cage. On Northeastern’s first possession Leo blew right by me for a layup. I chased him but had to stop before I ran smack into President Johnson and the others in the first row. Leo could move anywhere, in any direction, including vertically. Though only 5’ 10”, he could comfortably dunk!
David Steel PhD ’9
Former Manager of the MIT Men's Basketball Team
In our years together at MIT, I learned so many things from Leo. I would not be the person I am today without his guidance. He cared so much about people and always tried to instill a sense of confidence and responsibility in those he worked with. His zest for life will live on in all of us who treasure our memories of him.
Students in the Martin Luther King, Jr. design seminar are collecting donations for the relief effort in Haiti as part of an installation in Lobby 10. Photo: Vibin Kundukulan, The Tech, 2020
Speakers ask MIT community members to spread the Institute’s unique gifts
Hundreds of members of the MIT community gathered Thursday at the annual breakfast celebration to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to reflect on the importance of using the Institute’s gifts to serve what President Susan Hockfield called the “highest human purposes of connection, compassion and kindness.”
Titled “Deploying Our Gifts for the Betterment of Humankind: What Would Dr. King Say About Us?,” the event highlighted the gifts—in the form of creativity, innovation and problem-solving abilities—that MIT bestows on its students, faculty and staff, and on the imperative that they be used for the greater good.
“MIT itself is a gift, one that we have a duty to use, in service to the world,” Hockfield told a crowded Walker Memorial. Still, much work remains in order to bolster the value of that gift, she said.
“As wonderful a gift as the Institute may be, intrinsic to its value, and our understanding of its value, is a perpetual striving to be ever better,” Hockfield said.
Keynote speaker Gerry Hudson, the international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest growing labor union with more than 2.2 million members, echoed that call, imploring audience members to use their gifts to “try to realize the possibility of a more just America.”
“Knowing what I know about the gifts in this room, if you put them on the table, we’ll get there,” said Hudson, who has been involved with MIT for about five years. Hudson recalled his work with J. Phillip Thompson, associate professor of urban politics in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and other MIT faculty and students in New Orleans on the rehabilitation of public housing after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
‘The real King message’
In November 2008, Hudson and Thompson, as well as Joel Rogers of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy and a number of national partners, including MIT’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), co-founded the Emerald Cities Partnership to advance “fair opportunity, shared wealth and democracy” in the nation’s cities, according to the organization’s website.
Hudson explained that although King inspired him to become a labor organizer, he had declined to speak at King celebrations in recent years because he did not recognize the King he “knew and loved” in the speeches he heard at these events. Hudson agreed to speak at MIT because “I think you get it, the real King message.”
He spoke about King’s rarely quoted “If the Negro Wins, Labor Wins” speech, given before an American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organization convention in 1961. During the address, King explained that his vision for America’s future was not only about civil rights but, more broadly, about freedom and jobs. Hudson believes it was the failure of the labor movement to respond to this speech and join King’s call to action that “gave rise to an ugly politics that has swept this country for more than 40 years,” and that contributed to income inequality.
It was in 2008 when President Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination that Hudson was persuaded that “maybe, just maybe” his generation had picked up the baton that had been passed from King’s generation. A year after Obama’s inauguration, Hudson expressed frustration over what he said was a lack of progress on healthcare or labor law reform — and made clear his belief that it takes more than a president to bring about significant change.
“I say to you, MIT, we need your gifts put out there one more time,” he said. “It won’t happen unless you put them on the table.”
Building on a tradition of excellence
In addition to the speakers, Thursday’s breakfast featured passionate performances by the MIT Gospel Choir and Jermaine Tulloch, a guest soloist from the Harlem Gospel Choir.
Recent Rhodes Scholar winner Ugwechi Amadi, a senior majoring in brain and cognitive sciences and literature, moderated the celebration, which was dedicated to the memory of Leo Osgood, the former MIT basketball coach, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education who passed away in November. Hockfield praised Osgood for his commitment to the community.
“Leo was a guiding force behind this celebration for many years, and we are all very much the beneficiaries of his compassionate vision,” she said.
Citing that vision, the president stressed that there was room at MIT for improvement to harness the tools of modern technology and science to bring about more change. She called the recently released report from the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity a “constructive tool” to help MIT fully tap into and strengthen its gifts, while upholding its nearly 150-year-old tradition of excellence.
The product of 2-1/2 years of research and analysis by a team of nine MIT faculty members, the report concluded that while MIT’s efforts to hire and retain under-represented minority (URM) faculty have produced some gains in recent years, the results are uneven across the Institute, and that more effective policies and practices are necessary. Moreover, the study said the experience of URM faculty at MIT can be different from that of their majority peers, and that MIT must do more to foster a culture of inclusion.
Hockfield said she disagreed with the notion that the report’s findings and recommendations might “somehow threaten to erode or compromise the excellence of MIT.” asserting instead that the report “is not about compromising those standards — it is about reaching them.”
Hockfield praised the report for offering practical steps to accelerate positive change, and she noted that Provost L. Rafael Reif and Paula Hammond ’84, PhD ’93, the Bayer Professor of Chemical Engineering who led the committee that prepared the report, have already begun strategy meetings with Academic Council, school councils and the heads of academic units.
In addition to the report and its recommendations, Hockfield pointed to another example of MIT using its gifts to serve the world, acknowledging the efforts of students, faculty and the Public Service Center in responding to last month’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.
One of those students, Dylon Rockwell, a junior majoring in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, spoke about his concern that even though he helped raise thousands of dollars through his involvement in MIT’s Jan. 29 Haiti Relief Benefit Showcase, it might not be enough.
“What would Dr. King say about me?” Rockwell asked. “What would Dr. King say about MIT?”
Zenzile Brooks, a graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spoke of another gift widely abundant at MIT: talent. She said she recently embraced her gift for playing the piano after an organizer from her church told her she had a responsibility to use that gift, much like King had a responsibility to use his gift to organize for change.
“You say thank you, and you use it,” Brooks said, noting that “sparks really begin to fly” when MIT community members combine their individual gifts with the larger gift of MIT. “We are obligated to put this gift to good, good use.”
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