Former MIT chancellor, Wilmington native to speak at UNCW
January 5, 2012By Alison Lee Satake
The first African American chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wilmington native Phillip L. Clay, will speak at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 7 p.m. January 19 in UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium.
He will speak on the origins and significance of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is sometimes referred to as the “Black National Anthem.” The event is free and open to the public but advance tickets are required. Tickets can be picked up at the Kenan Auditorium Box Office beginning January 11.
Clay is a Wilmington native and a 1964 graduate of Williston High School. Coincidentally, the first African American student to be admitted to MIT, Robert R. Taylor, was also from Wilmington and attended Williston.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and first publicly performed as part of a celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Johnson, the school’s principal, wrote the words to introduce Booker T. Washington. The poem was set to music by Johnson’s brother John in 1905 and quickly became popular as a way for African Americans to demonstrate their patriotism and hope for the future.
After earning an AB degree with Honors from UNC Chapel Hill, Clay pursued a Ph.D. in city planning from MIT. Upon graduating in 1975, he was appointed assistant professor in the department of urban studies and planning. He became a full professor in 1992 and has served as head of the department of urban studies and planning, associate provost and assistant director of the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard University. He was appointed MIT chancellor in July 2001.
Under his tenure as chancellor at MIT, about $500 million was raised to help support future students, the number of applications for undergraduate admission doubled, financial aid evolved to reinforce MIT’s values, enrollment and diversity goals. He retired in November 2010 and resides Boston.
Clay is a nationally recognized authority on United States urban housing policy and community-based organizational development. He has been the principal investigator in several studies examining affordable housing, housing preservation and urban gentrification. In addition, Clay is vice president of the board of The Community Builders, one of the country’s largest non-profit producers of affordable housing.