34th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Leo Osgood

Leo Osgood Jr.

Former Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

34th Annual MLK Leadership Award

Caption:Leo Osgood, shown in a 1990 photograph Credits:Donna Coveney, MIT News Office
Caption:Leo Osgood, shown in a 1990 photograph Credits:Donna Coveney, MIT News Office

Leo Osgood's many roles at MIT had a profound impact on the students, faculty and staff with whom he worked.

During the course of his career, Osgood served as an associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education, dean on call, associate professor, and coach of the MIT men's basketball team; his legacy has many dimensions through which run consistent themes of leadership, caring, tenacity and inspiration. In reflecting on his passing, one of his coworkers described him as "welcoming, demanding, and caring. He encouraged you to do your best and wanted to help you achieve your dreams."

Osgood began his career at MIT in 1977 as an assistant basketball coach and became head coach in 1986, a position he would hold for the next nine years. In 1983, while his coaching responsibilities grew to associate coach, Osgood's role was expanded to assistant dean in the counseling section of the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs. For the next 12 years, he was the sole dean on call, helping students work through academic and personal emergencies after hours. In this role, he personally touched the lives of many students often in their most desperate time of need.

In 1986, Osgood added assistant professor in athletics to his broad range of responsibilities and contributions. Once again, his drive for excellence and his ability to connect with students shone through. A faculty member who worked with Osgood in Athletics described him as "a caring and excellent teacher. 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. "

During the next decade, Osgood was active and thoroughly engaged in fostering the development of underrepresented students, faculty and staff at MIT. He was on the faculty advisory board of the Office of Minority Education (OME) and was a significant contributor to OME's Interphase, a summer program that provides academic enrichment, confidence and community building for newly admitted freshmen. At the same time, he co-chaired MIT's Martin Luther King Jr. Committee as it conceived and initiated the Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholars Program, and he co-chaired a presidential task force for career development of underrepresented minority administrators at the Institute. His demonstrated leadership, commitment and ability to connect with students led to his appointment as associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education in 1995. He served in this role until he retired from MIT in 2006.

In 1990, the late Constantine Simonides, vice president and secretary of the Corporation, praised Osgood's leadership at MIT: "He is someone that young people can look up to for his accomplishments," Simonides said. "He is a disciplined coach who is both kind and tough, a combination that may be a requirement for success at MIT, but represents a balance very difficult to achieve."

A native of Charleston, S.C., Osgood came to Boston as a young boy. He earned a BS in business administration and an MS in education from Northeastern, where he was a highly successful basketball player. When he graduated in 1970, he was Northeastern's fifth all-time leading scorer with more than 1,000 career points. Osgood was inducted into the Northeastern's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.

Osgood was one of a core group of administrative leaders who contributed to the personal and professional successes of many MIT graduates. In the words of MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest, this group "enabled the MIT student body to become remarkably diverse." For several generations of underrepresented students, Osgood provided guidance and support; at times he was a lifeline. In "Technology and the Dream," Dr. Clarence Williams' book of personal reflections on the Black experience at MIT, former students cited Osgood as "one of the most influential people in (my) MIT years" in terms of their adjustment to and perseverance at MIT. For them, Osgood was a consistent and essential mentor who, "whatever foolishness I might have been going through," was "still willing to listen and help me out."

Professor Leo Osgood, Dean of the Office of Minority Education, coaches a player during Tuesday's game against Clark University. Photo: Thomas R. Karlo, The Tech 1995