Members of UO community honored at MLK Awards Luncheon

Keynote Speaker Nina Turner

Members of the University of Oregon community were honored for their commitment to Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of creating a beloved community at an awards luncheon Jan. 17 at the Ford Alumni Center.

More than 200 people attended the event in the Ford Alumni Center’s Giustina Ballroom.

Provost Jayanth Banavar and assistant and associate vice presidents for the Division of Equity and Inclusion, Lesley-Anne Pittard and Vickie DeRose, presented the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards to Rosa Chavez, Barbara Marbury and Julianne Newton.

Rosa Chavez, associate director at the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, was described as “the light in a dark tunnel, for which our students and their families seek support and guidance from” by nominators Kimberly Johnson, assistant vice provost for advising and director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence Advising, and Pittard, assistant vice president for campus and community engagement and director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence.

Marbury is the programs coordinator for pipeline and community engagement at the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence. Nominator Lara Fernandez, program director of the Summer Academy to Inspire Learning, known as SAIL, described how Marbury “leads by example, demonstrating the truest of heart, compassion. She is a true caring educator, mentor and leader.”

Graduate student Bethany Grace Howe nominated Newton, a professor of visual communication for the School of Journalism and Communication, saying Newton changed her life. Newton not only helped her get funding for both her research and a new media association for LGBTQ students but also gave her “… an offer of support that continues to this day.”

Awards for institutional transformation were presented to Michael Andreasen, vice president for university advancement, and the Dreamers Working Group Committee, which works to foster the gifts and talents, and promote a sense of belonging and safety, for students who are undocumented, part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, fall under tuition equity rules, or are from families with mixed immigration status.

Lisa Manotti, director of development, addressed how Andreasen’s work has transformed the UO as he “… has encouraged the entire advancement organization to have open and sometimes difficult conversations about race and community, and through his efforts we are building a more inclusive environment of trust and respect.”

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh nominated the Dreamers Working Group. She aligned their work with King’s vision.

 “The UO Dreamers Working Group exemplifies the best of Dr. King’s prophetic voice and actions,” she said. “That is because they mobilized on their own to address a need that had yet to be fully articulated.”

The keynote speaker was Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator and president of Our Revolution, a nonprofit whose mission is to support a new generation of progressive leaders, empower people to fight for progressive change and to elevate political consciousness.

Turner talked of King’s legacy and the need for “standing by the best in times of evil.”

“While titles are good,” she said, explaining she has many herself, “purpose is better.”

The luncheon included a welcome from Alex-Assensoh, with Dennis Galvan, vice provost for international affairs, as master of ceremonies. Musical and spoken word performances also were part of the event, along with presentations by the UO Gospel Choir and students August Jefferson and Pooria Manoochehri, followed by closing remarks by Doneka Scott, associate vice provost for student success.

A tribute was made to the Sigma Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, whose members gave a dramatic reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”

UO President Michael H. Schill offered remarks on the work that has happened at the UO catalyzed by the demands of the Black Student Task Force. 

“How does a commitment to free speech coexist with the moral imperative that I support our students of color in the face of rising racial bigotry and intolerance? First and foremost, I can use my speech and the bully pulpit afforded to me to condemn in the strongest terms the messages of white supremacy,” Schill said.

All of the honorees help make the UO a more beloved community, said Alex-Assensoh.

“Dr. King believed creating a beloved community was an achievable goal if enough people committed to its ideals of human decency, inclusivity and peaceful resolutions to conflict,” she said. “Our award winners exemplify these values. It was a privilege to honor them.”

—By tova stabin, University Communications