Portrait honoring David Blackwell unveiled in namesake residence hall

two men lift a cardboard cover off a painting

Richard Davis, left, and Hugo Blackwell, David Blackwell’s son, unveil the portrait inside Blackwell Hall. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi)

A portrait honoring David Blackwell, the first black man to get tenure at UC Berkeley, was unveiled this week in the residence hall bearing his name.

The portrait was commissioned by Richard Davis, a friend and former student of the late math professor Blackwell.

a portrait of blackwell

Richard Davis commissioned the portrait to honor his friend and former teacher. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi)

Blackwell came to Berkeley in the 1950s as a math professor and eventually went on to chair the newly formed statistics department. Blackwell was known as a gifted instructor who made the dizzying theorems of statistics accessible to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students. He also was a distinguished researcher who independently invented dynamic programming, a statistical method still used today in finance and areas like genome analysis.

In 1965, Blackwell became the first black man inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. He died in 2010.

Davis commissioned the portrait to honor Blackwell. It was installed in Blackwell Hall, which opened in August, on Wednesday.

Five people stand in front of a portrait

Richard Davis, middle, standing with members of Blackwell’s family after the unveiling on Wednesday. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi)