Metropolitan State University of Denver is celebrating over 40 years of the Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship. Noel was a pioneer for education equity and was the first African American woman elected to public office in Colorado. She was also the first African American elected to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education and the first African American member and chair of the University of Colorado Board of Regents. 

Before joining MSU Denver, Noel played a critical role in Denver history by authoring a resolution that led to a landmark decision affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court to desegregate Denver’s public school system. She then came to MSU Denver as a teacher of Sociology and African American Studies in 1969 and served as chair of the African American Studies Department from 1971-80.  

Michael Benitez Ph.D.

“Honoring the legacy of Rachel B. Noel goes beyond her contributions to assuring equal access to education for everyone in Denver and the broader state of Colorado,” said Michael Benitez, Ph.D., vice president for Diversity and Inclusion. “Honoring her legacy is about assuring that our black youth and other underrepresented groups today see themselves reflected among the trailblazers of American history and lean on the courage that will eventually open the doors to education for future generations.” 

In honor of these and many other accomplishments, MSU Denver established the Noel Professorship in 1981. The professorship brings renowned scholars and artists of distinction to the University to conduct classes, seminars, performances and lectures. This year’s Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professor and keynote speaker is Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., a decorated mentor, inventor, author and entrepreneur. In 2013, Mackie founded the nonprofit STEM NOLA to engage New Orleans learners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. After engaging over 70,000 K-12 students in STEM activities in his community, Mackie expanded into STEM Global Action to reach students across the United States and the world. 

He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science from Morehouse College. He also earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech. 

Join MSU Denver for the following events celebrating Noel's legacy

Community lecture and awards 

March 8 

6-7:30 p.m. 

Mistress of Ceremonies Tamara Banks 

Followed by a film screening of “Great Colorado Women: Rachel Bassette Noel” 

Shorter Community AME Church (online is available) 

3100 Richard Allen Court 

RSVP today


Mackie Keynote address 

March 9 

11-12:15 p.m. 

St. Cajetan’s (online available) 

RSVP today


Untold Stories of Rachel Noel:
Film Screening and Discussion
2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Attend Online