Bridge Leader Interview: Leon Trilling (2002)

Interviewee: Leon Trilling
Interviewer: Clarence G. Williams
Date: April 25, 2002

About the Interviewee

Leon Trilling received his B.S. and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology (Mechanical Engineering, 1944 and Aeronautics, 1948). He taught at the California Institute of Technology and was a Fulbright Scholar in Paris before coming to MIT in 1951. Professor Trilling joined the STS faculty in 1978. He founded the Integrated Studies Program at MIT and co-directed the New Liberal Arts Program. He is a senior staff member of The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) at MIT. His research centers on the development of jet propelled airliners and the role of science and mathematics curriculum in the middle school.

Professor Leon Trilling was chosen to receive [the MIT MLK Leadership Award] award because of his deep and enduring commitment to improving the quality of education for people of color. His long-standing and steady efforts have ranged from pioneering work with Boston's METCO program more than 30 years ago to his ongoing work at MIT to articulate and nurture the benefits of diversity in our learning environment. For three decades he has worked to create more effective ways to introduce young minority scholars to advanced science and engineering and to recruit and serve as mentor to minority faculty members. His leadership in such activities as the Office of Minority Education, the MIT Second Summer Program and the Course XVI Outreach Committee all testify to his commitment and ability to help make MIT a more enriching and better place for all of its members.

Leon, as an engineer, educator, role model and mentor, you have incorporated the notions of inclusion and diversity not simply as theoretical constructs, but as day-to-day practices in your life. In so doing, you represent the essence of Martin Luther King's philosophy and vision.

MIT News28 February 1996


Bridge Leadership Program

The Bridge Leadership Program was developed by Clarence G. Williams at MIT.

This program provides perspectives and developments of new insights based on the concept “Bridge Leadership” that emerged in Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999 (MIT Press, 2001). The concept developed from the investigator’s view as an important element in the educational experiences of black students and faculty members at MIT. It defined a small core of mostly non-black faculty and administrators who worked diligently, along with the limited number of underrepresented faculty and students, to bridge divisions at the university based on race. While this book focused on the black experience, a new phase of the “bridge leadership” concept was broadened over the past nine years to include not only race but culture and ethnicity as well. The project has developed through interaction beyond MIT with over sixty former and current presidents, senior faculty and administrators at 17 major universities and educational institutions. What has surfaced from interviews and fact findings from these institutions (see lists of “bridge leaders” and “bridge leader targets”) is a core of identifiable characteristics associated with “bridge leader” professionals, both faculty and administrators who work to transform their campuses into a more welcoming, nurturing environment for minorities and other individuals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Timeline: 2000s
School: School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Department: Science, Technology, and Society
Career: Arts & HumanitiesEducationEngineeringScienceTechnology
Object: Video
Collection: Bridge Leaders, Clarence G. Wiliams, Europe(an), Faculty, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mentorship, Recruitment, Rising Voices 1995-Present, STEM Education