Fifty years ago, in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a new legacy was born at MIT: Project Interphase. On October 11-12, 2019, alumni, current students, faculty, staff, administrators, friends and family gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the program now known to all as Interphase EDGE (Empowering Discovery | Gateway to Excellence). The Office of Minority Education, which coordinates the program, welcomed back Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson SB ’68, PhD ’73 (President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and one of the leaders behind the original idea for the program) and several members of the Project Interphase inaugural cohort, including renowned physicist Dr. Sylvester “Jim” Gates SB ’73, PhD ’77. The celebration weekend included a day-long conference on Friday (held at Microsoft), a tour of the MIT campus, and a gala, with many opportunities for alumni to learn more about how their beloved Interphase had evolved over the years.
On Saturday evening, approximately 300 guests gathered at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf for the Interphase 50th Anniversary Gala, which included an awards ceremony to recognize the outstanding contributions and achievements of those closely connected to the Interphase community. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson and Dr. Paul Gray SB ’54, ScD ‘60 (posthumously) were recognized individually with the inaugural Interphase Legacy Award for their advocacy for students of color at MIT and the great legacy they left behind in creating the Interphase program. Mrs. Pricilla King Gray accepted the award on behalf of her late husband and spoke to the crowd about Dr. Gray’s deep commitment to equity and inclusion. Professor Wesley L. Harris (Course 16), Jennifer Madiedo ’19, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and the Black Alumni/ae of MIT (BAMIT) were recognized with the Dr. Paul Gray Award for Excellence, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Professor Kristala L. Jones Prather ’90 (Course 10) and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla ’90, both former Interphasers, received the inaugural Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson Trailblazer Award for achievements in their respective fields, as well as their leadership within and beyond the Interphase community. The evening was capped by dinner and dancing as attendees celebrated Interphase’s 50 years of growing, supporting, and thriving at MIT.
—Naomi Brown-Jones, OME