Four area residents receive Fairfield's Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award


Four area residents will receive Fairfield University's Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award during a program that honors the slain civil rights leader on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 3:30 p.m. in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The recipients are Rev. John S. Kidd of Fairfield and Rev. Phyllis J. Leopold of Stratford, for their work with the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport; Richard Fuller, Sr. of Norwalk, for his leadership with the George Washington Carver Foundation, Inc. in Norwalk; and Andre C. Willis of New Haven, for his contributions as an educator.

The award recognizes their "tireless effort to instill and inspire the teachings and ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. in today's youth." Patricia J. Williams, J.D., the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law and a widely published author, will speak on "Seeing a Color-Blind Future." The program is open to the public.

Rev. Kidd and Rev. Leopold have worked to develop and strengthen the Bridge Building Initiative attracted over 1,000 people to programs that cultivate positive relations across divisions of race, municipality and religious affiliation, including Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

Executive Director of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport since 1983.

Rev. KiddRev. Kidd led the Council's efforts in 1995 to bring religious and community leaders together to address the issues of segregation in Connecticut raised by the Sheff vs. O'Neil case. The Council's efforts to engage people from various religions and backgrounds in relationships and dialogue led to the Bridge Building Initiative.

Under Dr. Kidd's leadership, the Council has led or collaborated in the initiation of several other programs, among them the Hunger Resource Center, The Project on Aging, Janus House for the '90s, Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Greater Bridgeport and the Urban Ministry Project.

An ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rev. Kidd received his master's of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1975 and returned there in 1997 as a Merrill Fellow. In 1975-76 he studied in an ecumenical seminary in Buenos Aires and did field work in Lutheran, Methodist, Disciples of Christ and Benedictine settings, becoming fluent in Spanish.

Married to Dr. Katherine Mancke Kidd, he is the father of two girls, Elizabeth and Christine.

Rev. LeopoldRev. Leopold has served as director of the Bridge Building Initiative since 1999, organizing, marketing and implementing 50 "community dialogues," that engaged over 1,000 participants. The dialogues have helped to heal racial and religious divisions. Under her leadership, the Bridge Building Board expanded from six community advisors and six dialogue facilitators to 15 advisors and 100 facilitators from diverse backgrounds.

A graduate of Gettysburg College with a degree in sociology and anthropology, she received a master's of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and has studied in the doctoral program at Hartford Seminary.

Rev. Leopold has served as associate pastor of the Nichols United Methodist Church in Trumbull and as pastor of the United Methodist Churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is chair of the Diversity Committee for Amistad America and a member of Haymarket's Undoing Racism Initiative.

Richard N. Fuller Sr. has served as executive director of the George Washington Carver Foundation, Inc. in Norwalk since 1978, where he has helped thousands of urban youth develop their job and study skills, self-esteem, knowledge and confidence needed to reach their full potential. His efforts to bring hundreds of urban minority students to tour historically Black and Connecticut colleges has resulted in two-thirds of the participating students receiving post-secondary degrees or diplomas.

Richard N. FullerA native of Norwalk, Mr. Fuller attended local schools where he was a leader on the sports field as well as in the classroom. He attended Virginia Union University for one year, before transferring to Fairfield University under a scholastic scholarship through the efforts of the Catholic Interracial Council of Fairfield County. At Fairfield he was a member of the Cardinal Key Society and the student branch of the NAACP, providing services to the school and tutoring Bridgeport inner city students. These activities set the foundation for a lifetime of community service.

In addition to his bachelor's degree in history, Mr. Fuller also earned a master's degree in counseling and a certificate of advanced studies in administration from Fairfield University's Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions. He taught social studies and was a guidance counselor at Brien McMahon High School for seven years before accepting the position with the Carver Foundation.

Mr. Fuller has chaired the United Way Campaign, the NAACP Education Committee, and was a board member of the Greater Norwalk Community Council. He was recently elected to his fifth four-year term on the Norwalk Board of Education.

Mr. Fuller and his wife, Carolyn, have two sons, Bryan and Richard Jr.

Andre WillisAndre C. Willis, an instructor in religious studies at Fairfield University who is completing his doctorate at Harvard University, has spent much of his teaching career helping young people learn about the African American experience.

At the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., he taught courses in "African American Religious Strategies" and "Visions of Community in African American Religious Thought" and was named the W. E. B. DuBois Visiting Instructor there. He was a Teaching Fellow both in Yale University's philosophy department and at Harvard College where he was the Head Teaching Fellow for Professor Cornel West.

Dr. Willis is the author of the book, "Faith of our Fathers: African-American Men Reflect on Fatherhood," published by E. P. Dutton. He has also published "Black Cultural Criticism at the Crossroads," in Elementary; "Jazz People" in Transition; and "Rap Music and the Black Musical Tradition," in Radical America.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 15, 2002

Vol. 34, No. 136