While students have often benefitted from Michael Whitt’s mentorship, the assistant professor is thankful for the inspiration his students have provided.
“Not many people have jobs where they can come to work in a bad mood, and their job can help improve their mood and perspective on things,” Whitt said. “In that respect, we are pretty lucky as teachers.”
Whitt’s contributions as an educator, entrepreneur and innovator were honored recently when he was inducted into the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance (RAAA), Inc. Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame, honoring individuals primarily of African descent, raises funds to support student scholarships. Since its inception, the Hall of Fame has honored the achievements of close to 100 individuals, including politicians, artists, educators, civil rights leaders and CEOs.
Whitt, who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in bioengineering from Rutgers, not only supports students in their studies and research, he is also a faculty fellow at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which promotes student startups.
Whitt has co-founded two startups of his own. ReproHealth Technologies, Inc. develops biomedical technology to advance assisted reproduction in agriculture while Cordex Systems designed a device to measure endothelial dysfunction, a significant predictor of a major adverse cardiovascular event.
After graduating from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Whitt earned a doctorate from Rutgers while working as a senior engineer with Eli Lilly.
“I was very focused and worked on my dissertation from 12 am to 5 am every morning,” he said.
For Whitt, who later earned an MBA from UCLA, earning that Ph.D. is one of his proudest accomplishments. Another is his work as an original facilitator for Project M.R., which aims to equip, empower and prepare adolescent African-American males for achievement and success by teaching them principles, behaviors, attitudes and values that lead to personal development and career success. The program is part of the Center for Leadership Development in Whitt’s hometown of Indianapolis.
“The CLD founder, Mr. Henry Bundles, developed the idea and chose a few of us to be the initial facilitators for the program back in 1993 while I was working for Eli Lilly as a chemical engineer before I went to graduate school at Rutgers,” Whitt said.
Whitt’s sister, Terry Whitt Bailey, is currently a vice president at the CLD – and one half of the only RAAA Hall of Fame sibling duo.
She was inducted in 2008 for her work in the arts and as a business and community leader.
“As a younger brother, I had to always bring my ‘A’ game following her in school as she set an expectation of excellence that every teacher I had shared with me,” Whitt said. “However, it was great following her. I actually followed her to both Rutgers and UCLA for college.”