Three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration announced at Fairfield University

Fairfield University will hold a three-day celebration of the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jan. 21-23, that will incorporate a :

  • Multi-faith Celebration of Diversity featuring Dr. Anthony L. Bennett and the Mt. Aery Baptist Church Gospel Choir, followed by a Peace Festival with student musical performances;
  • LaFarge Convocation with keynote speaker Rosemary E. Kilkenny, Esq., Georgetown University's first Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, and a performance by the Fairfield University Glee Club; with honors present to Dr. Kilkenny and former Fairfield University president, Rev. William McInnes, S.J.;
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Awards presented to four individuals who exemplify the virtues of Dr. King;
  • Winners announced for Connecticut Post-Fairfield University Essay Contest for 6th, 7th and 8th graders in Bridgeport; and
  • Youth Leadership Workshop for Middle School Students in Bridgeport and Fairfield.

The events begin on Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. with a Multi-faith Celebration of Diversity in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola. Readings from a number of religious traditions will be followed by a sermon by Dr. Anthony L. Bennett, senior pastor of Mt. Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport. A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., he received his Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York and a Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He became the fifth pastor of Mt. Aery Baptist Church in 1994 where he has extended the Church's ministries to the Bridgeport community. Accompanying him will be the acclaimed Mt. Aery Mass Choir. Following the service will be a Peace Festival in the lower level of the Campus Center with music and refreshments. The public is welcome to both events.

On Thursday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. Rosemary E. Kilkenny, Esq., Georgetown University's first Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, will deliver the LaFarge Convocation address on "Martin Luther King, the World's Hero Setting the Stage for the Emergence of Barack Obama as America's 44th President."

In her talk, Dr. Kilkenny plans to focus "on the aspects of Dr. King's life that launched the civil rights movement and supported the women's rights movement." She will also "examine and acknowledge Dr. King's work with other marginalized groups such as gays and lesbians and the poor as well as his call for international human rights," and will "link Dr. King's legacy to the climate in our country where a man like Barack Obama has now emerged not only as our President, but as an international humanitarian striving to indeed make the world a better place." Dr. Kilkenny's address takes place in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts and the public is welcome.

At the convocation, Dr. Kilkenny will be presented with the John LaFarge S.J. Award, named in honor of Fr. LaFarge, one of the earliest leaders of the civil rights movement Dr. Kilkenny began her career at Kent State University where she developed a national program to increase the representation of Black graduate students.

She later served as the Director of Affirmative Action Programs at the State University of New York at Albany before taking the position Special Assistant for Affirmative Action Programs at Georgetown, reporting to Timothy Healy, late President of Georgetown.

Currently Kilkenny serves on the Editorial Board of the Negro Educational Review and is a board member of Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal (SEEDS). She is the Treasurer of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), an organization that she founded with several colleagues at other institutions of Higher Education.

Also at the convocation, Rev. William C. McInnes, S.J., who served as president of Fairfield University from 1964 to 1973, will be presented with the Bellarmine Medal of Honor, only the seventh person in the University's history to be so honored. During his tenure as president, Fr. McInnes was known for his involvement in the community, including at ABCD in Bridgeport and the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport. He also was president during the turbulent years of war protests and demonstrations, and oversaw the admittance of women to the full-time undergraduate program in 1970.

Following the convocation the University will hold the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award Dinner which will honor four people for their commitment to the legacy and vision of Dr. King. This year the awards will be presented to James Fitzpatrick, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, who has worked tirelessly to support campus efforts to help community members in need; Dr. Ellen Umansky, the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies and a long-time member and supporter of the Martin Luther King Jr. committee; Michael Cicirelli, Class of 2010, president of Project Halo, which seeks to prevent acts of intolerance towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered individuals; and Denise Taylor, executive director of "Unique and Unified," an after school and summer enrichment program located at Marina Village housing complex. Also at the dinner, the winners will be announced of the Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Post and Fairfield University.

The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration ends on Friday, Jan. 23, with a Youth Leadership Workshop led by Rony Delva, project coordinator of Upward Bound, for middle and high school students from Bridgeport and Fairfield. Fairfield University students volunteer for the workshop that takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the John A. Barone Campus Center Oak Room.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on January 12, 2009

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