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Walter Massey

Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Walter Massey
Walter Massey, Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Walter Massey serves as Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) as of July 1, 2016. In this role, he supports SAIC President Elissa Tenny on major fundraising initiatives and other outreach efforts on behalf of the School. Massey’s vast array of experience across higher education, the arts and sciences, and the corporate and civic sectors is a tremendous asset to our campus.

Previously, Massey served as SAIC’s President beginning in 2010. As President, and along with then-Provost Tenny, he led efforts to increase student scholarships and further diversify our student body; to modernize our campus; to broaden our outreach to new institutional partners across the arts, higher education, and business communities; and to improve the School’s financial position. His tenure as President culminated with SAIC’s 150th Anniversary celebrations and with the launch of a historic fundraising campaign, Beautiful/Work: The Campaign for SAIC.

Prior to joining SAIC, Massey served as President of Morehouse College, his alma mater, for more than a decade. During his tenure, more than 5,000 young men (mostly African American) received degrees. He was also instrumental in bringing the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the college, where they are now stored.

A theoretical physicist, in 2016 Massey was named Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization. In this role, he will guide the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in the Chilean Andes, which will be the world’s largest optical telescope when it comes online in 2022.

Massey began his career at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Brown University, before serving as Director of Argonne National Laboratory, with joint appointments as Professor of Physics and, later, Vice President of Research at the University of Chicago. From 1991 to 1993, he served as Director of the National Science Foundation under President George H.W. Bush. He then joined the University of California system as Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Throughout his career, Massey has leveraged his wide range of expertise in other sectors. He is former Chairman of Bank of America and a former Director of McDonald’s Corporation. In the civic and philanthropic sectors he has served on the boards of the Mellon Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, Smithsonian Institution, and the Salzburg Global Seminar in addition to a number of other organizations committed to the advancement of science and technology, diversity in education, and the arts and culture. In 2017, Massey was appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago.

Altogether, Massey has been recognized for his many accomplishments with honorary degrees from 41 universities, including Yale, Northwestern, Harvard, Columbia, and Brown, and he is also a trustee emeritus of the University of Chicago and Brown University. He and his wife Shirley have two sons and three grandchildren.