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The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship was initiated in 1981 to foster multiculturalism, diversity, and academic excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The professorship brings renowned scholars and artists of distinction to MSU Denver to conduct classes, seminars, performances, and lectures for students, faculty, and the larger Denver community.
Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Professors have included such luminaries as Princeton Professor Cornel West, pianist Billy Taylor, author Iyanla Vanzant, former president of Spelman College Johnetta Cole, jazz singer Diane Reeves, the late actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis, and executive editor of Ebony magazine Lerone Bennett Jr.
Dr. Calvin Mackie is an award-winning mentor, inventor, author, former engineering professor, internationally renowned speaker, and successful entrepreneur. In 2013, Dr. Mackie founded STEM NOLA, a non-profit organization created to expose, inspire, and engage communities in the opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). To date, STEM NOLA has engaged over 70,000 K-12 students in hands-on project-based STEM activities. In 2021, he launched STEM Global Action to advance K-12 STEM education across the U.S. and the world.
A lifelong resident of New Orleans, Dr. Mackie graduated from high school with low test scores requiring him to take special remedial classes at Morehouse College. In 1990, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Morehouse College with a Bacholer’s of Science degree, as a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. Simultaneously, he was awarded a Bacholer’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech, where he subsequently earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in Mechanical Engineering in 1996.
While pursuing a doctorate degree, Dr. Mackie served as an instructor of mathematics at Morehouse College. Following graduation, he joined the faculty at Tulane University, where he pursued research related to heat transfer, fluid dynamics, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. In 2002, he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Mackie’s eleven-year academic career ended in June 2007, when Tulane University disbanded the engineering school in response to financial hardship induced by Hurricane Katrina. During 2004-2005 academic year, Mackie served as a visiting professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He enjoyed a respected academic career, before pivoting his career towards entrepreneurship, consulting, and professional speaking.
Mackie is also the President and CEO of the Channel ZerO Group LLC, an educational and professional development consulting company he co-founded in 1992. He has presented to numerous civic and educational institutions, government entities, professional associations, and businesses of every size and industrial focus.
He has won numerous awards including the 2019 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Board’s Chair Phoenix Award, which recognizes individuals whose extraordinary achievements strengthen communities and improve the lives of individuals and families, nationally and globally. He was also awarded the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in a White House ceremony.
Dr. Mackie is the author of two award-winning books: A View from the Roof: Lessons for Life and Business and Grandma’s Hands: Cherished Moments of Faith and Wisdom.
A champion of the civil rights movement in Denver and in Colorado, Rachel Noel was the first African American woman elected to public office in Colorado, the first African American elected to the Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) Board of Education, the first African American to be a member and chair of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, and the first African American woman elected statewide in Colorado.
On April 25, 1968, she presented the DPS board with the Noel Resolution, recognizing that the “establishment of an integrated school population is desirable to achieve equality of educational opportunity.” It directed the superintendent to develop “a comprehensive plan for the integration of the Denver Public Schools.” Under a cloud of threats to Noel and her family, the resolution passed on May 17, 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court would eventually affirm Noel’s position in its landmark decision of 1973, Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1, making Denver the first city outside the American South to be instructed by the country’s highest court to address de facto segregation with school busing.
Noel also played a critical role in MSU Denver’s history. She 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 to 1980.
Noel died at the age of 90 in 2008. During her lifetime and after, Noel’s legacy has inspired the MSU Denver community and beyond. In 1981, the University created The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship to honor Noel. A recipient of many awards and distinctions, Noel also lived to see a Denver Public Schools middle school named in her honor. Although that middle school was closed, the building and campus is still called the Rachel B. Noel campus and is home to various charter programs. The Noel Community Arts School, housed in the former Montbello High School building, consists of both a high school and a middle school.
Noel was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Denver in 1993 and the University of Colorado in 2004 and an honorary degree from MSU Denver in 1981. She held a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and a master’s degree from Fisk University. Noel’s other commendations and accomplishments were many, including: