Lehigh University
Lehigh University


William Gray to keynote annual Martin Luther King celebration

William H. Gray III was the first black member of the U.S. Congress to serve as Majority Whip.

William Herbert Gray III, a retired minister, former U.S. Congressman and former president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, will deliver the keynote address during Lehigh’s 2010 celebration of the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gray’s talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26, in the Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall. It will cap nine days of events, running Jan. 18-26, held in honor of King, the leader of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and was assassinated in 1968. The events will include community service, an oratorical contest, and the awarding of scholarships to local high school students. All events are based on the theme of “Justice for Us. Justice for All.”

“We’re looking for ways to encourage student involvement, and we came up with what we feel is a strong series of events that will hopefully engage and inspire the Lehigh community, including faculty, staff, students and community partners,” says Jame’l Hodges, the director of Lehigh’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, and chair of the university-wide planning committee for the event.

“All of these events are designed to enhance our town/gown relationship,” Hodges says.

The celebration will begin with an address to the Lehigh community by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, followed by a silent march to Bethlehem’s Cathedral Church of the Nativity on Wyandotte Street.

Over the course of the following days, the university will also host a convocation featuring a talk by Carmen Twillie Ambar, president of Cedar Crest College; an interfaith breakfast; an open conversation on religion, inclusion and diversity; and community service work.

Volunteer opportunities include working with Lehigh’s after-school homework clubs for elementary school students on Jan. 19-21. Student volunteers will help the younger students write poems and short essays and design quilt pieces. The projects will focus on the theme of King’s life and his “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered in August, 1963.

The events are:

Monday, Jan. 18, noon: Lehigh’s MLK Jr. Celebration Kickoff on the University Center front lawn. The event will feature a talk by Gast, followed by a silent march to the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. (Rain Location—Neville Hall #1)

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 4 p.m.: A Memorial Convocation in Packard 101 will include a talk by Ambar, and the conferring of the university’s MLK Awards.

Wednesday, Jan. 20, noon: Student rally on the UC front lawn (Rain location and time will be Packard Auditorium at 4 p.m.)

Thursday, Jan. 21, 8:15 a.m.: Interfaith Breakfast, Asa Packer Dining Room

Friday, Jan. 22, 6 p.m.: The First Annual MLK Jr. Lehigh University Oratorical Presentation and High School Essay Contest (featuring the university’s STRIVE and STAR students), Lamberton Hall. The theme of the contest entries will be “I Dream Lehigh To Be.”

Monday, Jan. 25, 4:10 p.m.: Open Conversation on Religion, Inclusion and Diversity in Maginnes Hall 101

Tuesday, Jan. 26, Noon to 2 p.m.: Faculty, Staff and Student Lunch Discussion on Social Justice, University Center Room 303

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m.: MLK Jr. Celebration Keynote Address by William Gray in Baker Hall

Pastor, Congressman and education advocate

Gray rose to prominence in Philadelphia during the early 1970s, when he succeeded his father as senior minister at Bright Hope Baptist Church. He served as pastor of the church until 2007. In 1978, Gray was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served from 1979 until 1991, when he resigned to become president of the United Negro College Fund, one of the nation's leading philanthropies devoted to higher education.

While in Congress, Gray became the first black American to chair the House budget committee and the first to serve as Majority Whip. He introduced an anti-apartheid bill that was a precursor to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act that Congress passed in 1986.

Gray served as president of the United Negro College Fund until 2004. During the Clinton administration, he also served as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for Haitian affairs.

Gray is now cochair of Gray Loeffler, LLC, a full-service consulting firm specializing in government relations, education, business advisory services and diversity counseling.

Planning committee members

In addition to Hodges, the members of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration planning committee include:

Uhuru Aseto, graduate student; Kathryn Burke, teaching assistant in the community service office; Lavonne Clark, diversity director in the office of admissions; Darius Callier, undergraduate student; Seth Goren, director of Jewish Student Life and associate university chaplain; Veronica Hunter, Greek life coordinator in the office of fraternity and sorority affairs; Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center; Judith Lasker, professor and department chair of sociology and anthropology; Kirsten Muser, undergraduate student; Tyrone Russell, residence life coordinator; Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain; Michele Vella, graduate student; and Silagh White, director of ArtsLehigh.

For more information on the university’s 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, please click here.


Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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