University to celebrate King’s legacy Monday

Merrifield to receive Rosa L. Parks Award

Leah Merrifield (second from left), the 2017 recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Award, speaks to College Prep Scholar Kaylin Thompson (left), a student at Hazelwood East High School, and his family in 2016. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

Leah Merrifield, a passionate advocate for college access, will receive the 2017 Rosa L. Parks Award at Washington University in St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. The event will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, in Graham Chapel.

Other celebrations also will be held around the university. The Office of Diversity Programs at the School of Medicine and the Brown School each will hold events at 4 p.m. Monday. All are free and open to the public.

Merrifield serves as the university’s associate vice chancellor for community engagement and St. Louis college readiness initiatives. She created Washington University’s innovative College Prep Program, which prepares talented, low-income high school students for life on a college campus. Scholars live in residence halls, take classes for college credit and prepare for the ACT. 

Four scholars from the program’s first cohort applied early decision to Washington University; all of them have been accepted.

“Talk to College Prep scholars, and they will tell you how much Leah’s mentorship and support means to them,” said Rudolph Clay, chair of the MLK commemoration committee and head of diversity initiatives and outreach services at Washington University Libraries. “Leah is invested in their success because she knows a college degree will bring them closer to their dreams and benefit our entire region.”

Mya Petty, 17,  will receive the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Service Award. Last summer, Petty launched “STL Lunch,” which provided free lunches to approximately 30 children at Hickey Park in the Baden neighborhood.

This year’s program marks the 30th anniversary of the ceremony’s debut and the 60th anniversary of King’s appearance at Graham Chapel. King urged his audience to join him in the fight for integration.

“If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” he urged the crowd, repeating one of his most powerful precepts.

“Those words are still important today,” Clay said.

The commemoration also will include a keynote address from the Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries for the United Church of Christ and pastor of Christ the King United Church; remarks from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Provost Holden Thorp; and performances from Black Anthology and Orchestrating Diversity, an urban youth orchestra.

A reception will follow at the Danforth University Center. Free parking is available in the Danforth University Center garage. 

School of Medicine celebration

Robert Bullard photo

Robert D. Bullard, often called the father of environmental justice, will be the guest speaker at the School of Medicine lecture, at 4 p.m. Monday in the Eric P. Newman Education Center, 320 S. Euclid Ave.

Bullard is a professor of urban planning and environmental policy in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston. His lecture is titled “Environmental Justice: A Path to Ensuring Healthier Communities for All.”

The author of 17 books, Bullock has written on subjects ranging from sustainable development to environmental racism to regional equity. Newsweek named him one of the 13 Environmental Leaders of the Century in 2008, and the Iowa State Alumni Association honored him in 2015.

To RSVP, call the Office of Diversity Programs at 314-362-6854 or email

Brown School event

The Brown School’s Black Student Union and Diversity Committee will present “The Dream. The Agenda: How Does Trump’s Agenda Impact Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream?” from 4-6:30 p.m. in Hillman Hall’s Clark-Fox Forum.

A panel discussion will include Tim McBride, professor at the Brown School; Vetta Sanders Thompson, professor at the Brown School; Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of Diversity Awareness Partnership; and Steph Perkins, executive director of PROMO. A dinner will follow. RSVP here. 

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.