SLPS leaders to be honored with Rosa L. Parks Award

University to host annual Martin Luther King commemoration at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, in Graham Chapel

Two visionary leaders from St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) have been selected to receive the annual Rosa L. Parks Award from the Washington University in St. Louis Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee. 

Kelvin Adams, who retired in December as SLPS superintendent, and Deidra Thomas-Murray, the district’s students in transition coordinator and foster care liaison, will be honored at the 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, at Graham Chapel on the Washington University in St. Louis Danforth Campus.

Kelvin Adams (left) and Deidra Thomas-Murray are recipients of the Rosa L. Parks Award, presented by the Washington University in St. Louis Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee. (Courtesy photos)

Adams and Thomas-Murray have improved the lives of students both inside and outside of the classroom, said committee member Phyllis Jackson, associate director of event management.

“In keeping with the spirit of Rosa Parks’ determination fight for the greater good, this is a great time to honor Dr. Adams, the longest-running superintendent of SLPS, and Dr. Thomas-Murray, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the students identified as homeless, a population that could easily fall through the cracks,” Jackson said. “Together, they have worked to make sure the children in the city of St. Louis receive the best education possible.”

During his 14-year tenure as superintendent, Adams brought stability, resources and innovative ideas to the district, which serves 20,000 students at 62 schools. The district regained accreditation, erased a $36.8 million deficit and opened two nationally recognized new schools — one that serves refugees and other new Americans, and another that supports at-risk youth. In addition, he has put programs and policies in place that have increased pre-kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates and student attendance. 

Thomas-Murray joined the district in 2006 after experiencing homelessness herself. Since then, she has been an effective advocate for children in foster care and the district’s 5,000 students who do not have a home. From organizing food and clothing drives to establishing college readiness programs to helping families navigate the complex web of housing, health care and educational programs and services, Thomas-Murray works to make sure students have what they need to succeed academically in K-12 classrooms and beyond.

Geoff K. Ward, a professor of African and African American studies in Arts & Sciences and director of the WashU & Slavery Project, will deliver a keynote address urging the Washington University community to explore the institution’s entanglement with slavery and to address its ongoing legacy so that we can better serve efforts to transform the region.

The ceremony also will feature remarks from Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin, Provost Beverly Wendland and student speakers Raevyn Ferguson, president of the Association of Black Students, and Miriam Silberman, president of Student Union, as well as performances by student groups Black Anthology and the Washington University Concert Choir.

The program will be followed by a reception at the Danforth University Center. The program is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the  Danforth University Center garage. 

The commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. will continue at the School of Medicine at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week 2023: “Amplifying Voices through Courageous Storytelling.” Programs include: 

  • “Perspectives: Recognizing & Speaking Up Against Disinformation about Equity and Justice Work,” noon Tuesday, Jan. 17. The program is virtual. 
  • “Yoga for Self-Compassion,” 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19. The programs are virtual. 
  • Keynote panel: “The Truth about Critical Race Theory,” 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, Moore Auditorium, North Building. The program also will be livestreamed. 
  • “Amplifying Community Voices for Black Joy and Healing,” noon Jan. 19. The program is virtual. 
  • “Washington University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update,” 10:15 Jan. 20, Moore Auditorium. The program also will be livestreamed. 
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