Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in excellence. He had an excellent mind which he disciplined through study and which he then applied to changing American society.

SHIRLEY ANN JACKSON '68, PhD '73 (Physics)- First African-American woman PhD at MIT


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology established the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor Program to enhance and recognize the contributions of outstanding scholars. The program honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by increasing the presence of minority scholars at MIT.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professors and Scholars enhance their scholarship through intellectual interactions with MIT peers and enrich the intellectual life of the Institute with their participation in MIT research and academic programs.

Scholars are expected to be deeply engaged in the life of the Institute through teaching, research and other scholarly interactions with the MIT community. Their presence gives them the opportunity to make a significant impact on the growth and awareness of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the MIT community as a whole.

Appointments as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professors have been in all of MIT’s academic areas of Architecture, Engineering, Humanities, Management and Science. Appointments will also be considered in the fields of medicine, law and public service, where individuals of high distinction can add significantly to the intellectual life of the Institute through special subject offerings and interactions with students interested in pursuing such professions.

While most Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professors are from colleges and universities, appointments will also be considered from individuals from public and private organizations outside of academia.  [view flyer]



MIT began its annual commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1975, seven years after his assassination. The memorial activities featured a breakfast or dinner and lectures by prominent speakers. Martin Luther King Day was designated an Institute holiday in 1976, a decade before its first official observance as a federal holiday. These public events paved the way for bringing several visiting professors across disciplines to campus each academic year.

In 1988, MIT appointed a committee chaired by Professor Michael Feld of the Physics Department (and who happened to be astronaut Ronald E. McNair‘s PhD advisor and mentor). The Institute Committee was charged with considering how MIT could further call community attention to Dr. King’s life, work, and contributions. Among the committee’s recommendations were the establishment of the MLK Visiting Scholars program in 1991 and its expansion, the MLK Visiting Professors program, in 1995. Since then, the MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program has enriched the intellectual life of MIT.

The first ever appointed scholar was Dr. Henry C. McBay (1990-91), a retired professor of chemistry at Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater. His dedicated service to the fields of chemistry and teaching included developing a treatment for prostate cancer and advancing a chemistry education program in Liberia on behalf of UNESCO in 1951.

Henry C. McBay: A Chemical Festschrift (MIT Press, 1994) documents the proceedings of a symposium in his honor as the Institute’s first MLK Scholar, with an opening biographical chapter by science historian and MIT professor Kenneth R. Manning.

The four inaugural Visiting Professors appointed in 1995 were: Wesley Harris (aeronautics and astronautics), Richard Joseph (political science), Steven Lee (mathematics), and Oliver McGee (civil and environmental engineering).


Comments from Former Scholars

Dereje Agonafer 2007-08

Professor and Director of Electronics, MEMS, and Nanoelectronics Systems Packaging Center, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Texas at Arlington
The MIT MLK Visiting Professor and Scholars Program was indeed a superb experience and was an excellent springboard to my professional career. Since then, many good things have happened, and, yes, your program deserves great credit! Since I left IBM and joined academia, I have graduated 215 graduate students including 21 PhDs and I am currently advising 12 PhDs and several MS students. Recently [February 2019], I was elected to the National Academy of Engineering...Obviously, a special thanks to Mechanical Engineering Department--including Professors Rohan Abeyaratne (Chair at the time), Gang Chen, Wesley L. Harris, Borivoje Mikic, and Evelyn Wong--for supporting my acceptance to the MLK Visiting Professor and Scholars Program...please keep up the excellent program and let me know if I can be of help in the future.

Alfred Noel 2000-01

Assistant Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA
This was a very productive year. The teaching was very stimulating. I had the opportunity to work with some very good African American students. My research went very well. I submitted one paper for publication, and I am about to complete another. I express my deepest gratitude to the MLK Visiting Professorship Program at MIT and to David Vogan, chairman of the Mathematics Department, for allowing me to be part of the Program.

Kwadwo Osseo-Asare 2000-01

Professor and Chair, Metals Science and Engineering Program, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
My stay as a Martin Luther King Visiting Professor offered me an unanticipated opportunity to reflect on the dream as public relations and the dream as reality. I was challenged anew by the gap between the two.

Pamela McCauley-Bell 1998-99

Department of Industrial Engineering & Management Systems, University of Central Florida
Serving as a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor within the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department was a holistically enriching experience. To have an opportunity to work with bright, motivated students and interact with outstanding faculty has left lasting and positive impressions on me prfessionally and personally. The time spent at MIT also propelled my research efforts to another level and has generated international recognition of my work. I strongly recommend this experience to other faculty.

Stephen Ruffin 2000-01

Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
The MLK Visiting Professor Program has provided meaningful collaboration with outstanding MIT faculty and students during the past year. This program has allowed the time for development of new research initiatives that I will build for years. The opportunity that I have had to be involved in the educational innovations at MIT through teaching and research advising of MIT students has been invaluable. I highly recommend this program.