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Drs. Samuel L. Myers Sr. and Jr. blaze trail of stellar academic accomplishments


Cover of Diverse from November 8, 2012, featuring careers in higher education.

Dr. Samuel L. Myers Jr. joined the Humphrey School in 1992 as the Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice and director of the Roy Wilkins Center, which just held the 4th World Conference on Racial and Economic Inequality. Like his father, Myers was trained as an economist, spending his career as a respected and accomplished academician.

The distinguished careers of the Drs. Myers were featured in the November issue of Diverse. The two faculty members followed similar paths initially, both earning bachelor degrees from Morgan State University. From there, their careers diverged, with Myers Sr. earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University and his son from MIT. Each have claim to unique accomplishments in the field of economics.

Myers Sr. almost became a chemist, but a trip to India changed his mind. "'All of the indigent, the lame people, were begging in the streets. You saw lepers in the streets with holes in the middle of their faces,' he recalls. 'Those were just agonizing experiences to me. So I came back and changed my major to social sciences, thinking that I would do some good.'"

After serving as an Army officer in World War II and with a Ph.D. in hand, the elder Myers joined the faculty of Morgan State University, where he taught for 13 years. He left Morgan in 1963 to study exports from Latin America for the Department of State. From there he became the president of Bowie State University and later the president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity In Higher Education (NAFEO).

Myers Jr. began his graduate career with a full scholarship to MIT, completing a dissertation on the economics of crime in 1976. His first teaching job was at the University of Texas, where many of the students had never before had a black professor. Having been trained to teach at the graduate level,, he struggled to teach freshman economics. Administrators at the school also suggested that, because he was hard-of-hearing, he should consider a research career. "'Nobody had ever said that—'maybe you should shut yourself in where you don't have to interact with people'—'just simply because I'm deaf."

After working for the federal government and in other faculty roles, Myers Jr. began teaching at the University of Pittsburgh in 1982, where he was very well received by his students. "I had, during my tenure review, this pool of students saying, 'this is the best professor we've ever had because he really and truly listens,'" Myers Jr. recalls. He was then persuaded to take on the chairmanship of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park, where he worked to combine black studies with public affairs, a post he held until joining the University of Minnesota in 1992.

Read the full article and learn about more of their accomplishments.