Last week, on April 19th and 20th, Howard University presented the Blackwell Memorial Conference, two years after Dr. David Blackwell passed away at the age of 91. Dr. Blackwell taught at both Howard and UC Berkeley, but before receiving these prestigious appointments he received some important assistance from the Rosenwald Fund. The New York Times recalled in his obituary that, in 1941, “[after] being awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship, established by the clothing magnate Julius Rosenwald to aid black scholars, he attended the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.” This was an important post-doctoral appointment for the young scholar, and his work was “groundbreaking” in spite of the racial discrimination he faced.
Most of the papers in the conference were academic, discussing his many contributions to the fields of statistics and mathematics. However, several of the papers are more personal, including remembrances of his style as a teacher, his transformational and inspirational effect on Howard University and thoughts on how to increase educational access in the future for growing minority groups.
Blackwell is remembered by another conference as well. Since 2000, a biannual event called The Blackwell-Tapia Conference has been held at various mathematical science institutes around North America. In addition to providing a meeting place for researchers, the event is accompanied by the awarding of the Blackwell-Tapia prize, which goes to a mathematical scientist who has significantly contributed to his field and also served as a role model for aspiring minority students in the mathematical sciences. This year’s event will be held in November, 2012 at Brown University.