Valerie Jarrett and L. Rafael Reif, 2022

Valerie Jarrett and L. Rafael Reif, 2022
Photo: Jake Belcher | MIT News

Valerie Jarrett (left), CEO of the Obama Foundation, worked with MIT President L. Rafael Reif to arrange the public display of the diploma of Robert Robinson Taylor, MIT's first Black graduate and Jarrett's great-grandfather. MIT's Infinite Corridor, 30 September 2022.

History and the future joined forces on Friday at a campus event honoring Robert Robinson Taylor, MIT’s first Black graduate and the first accredited Black architect in the United States. The gathering also highlighted new collaborations between MIT and Tuskegee University.

The event featured remarks from former White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is Taylor’s great-granddaughter — and whose cousins discovered Taylor’s 1892 diploma in their attic last year.

Now restored by MIT preservation experts and on loan to the Institute, the diploma is on display at the new MIT Museum, which opened to the public on Oct. 2 in Kendall Square.

“I want to say, on behalf of my entire family, how deeply moved we are by this event, and the way MIT has embraced the vision and spirit of my great-grandfather,” said Jarrett, who served as a senior advisor to former U.S. President Barack Obama and is now CEO of the Obama Foundation in Chicago.

"A diploma, a discovery, and an historic legacy" by Peter Dizikes, MIT News, 4 October 2022

Timeline: 2020s
School: School of Architecture and Planning
Department: AdministrationArchitecture
Career: EducationGovernment & Law
Object: Image
Collection: Family, L. Rafael Reif, Rising Voices 1995-Present, Robert R. Taylor, Tuskegee