Berkeley’s First Tenured Black Scholar Has a Building Named in His Honor

The University of California Berkeley is naming its newest residence hall in honor of David Blackwell. Dr. Blackwell, an accomplished statistician, was the first African American to be grant tenured at the university. He joined the mathematics department at Berkeley in 1954 and stayed on the faculty there until retiring in 1988. Dr. Blackwell died in 2010.

The new residence hall will house 750 undergraduate students and is expected to be ready to open this fall. Chancellor Carol Christ said that Professor Blackwell is “an exemplar of what Berkeley stands for: scholarly excellence of the highest caliber tied to a mission of social justice and inclusion.”

A native of Illinois, in 1935 Blackwell entered the University of Illinois at the age of 16. By 1941 he had earned bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics. He then joined the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton but left after one year. Professor Blackwell taught at Southern University and Atlanta University before joining the faculty at Howard University in 1944. At Howard, he became a full professor and chaired the department of mathematics. In 1965 Dr. Blackwell was the first African American to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.

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