On January 12, Clark College hosted a celebration honoring the life and dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The evening began with dramatic poetry readings by members of Multicultural Students United of Clark College and a greeting from a representative of Minorities Reconstruction Culture (MRC) at Washington State University Vancouver.
Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem Dan Tonkovich presented a proclamation to Dr. R. Wayne Branch, President of Clark College, commemorating Dr. King's life and the local celebration in his honor.
The guest speaker was author and educator Freeman A. Hrabowski III. Dr. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Hrabowski spoke on "Beating the Odds: Preparing Minorities for Science and Engineering Careers."
A child-leader in the civil rights movement, Dr. Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, Four Little Girls, on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He has co-authored two books, Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Odds (Oxford University Press), focusing on parenting and high-achieving African American males and females in science. He serves as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and universities and school systems nationally. He also sits on corporate and civic boards of organizations including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Constellation Energy Group, France-Merrick Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, McCormick & Company, Inc., Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust Company, University of Maryland Medical System, and the Urban Institute.
In a feature article in The Columbian newspaper, reporter Howard Buck wrote about Dr. Hrabowski's presentation, saying, "Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of dreams, and helped give millions the chance to pursue them. He also knew the way to fulfill them: education." Dr. Hrabowski emphasized the importance of math skills, calling them an essential "civil right" in the 21st century, a time of global competition. His mother, he said, was a one-time maid who became a school teacher. He told the audience that his love of reading allowed him to "dream about the possibilities" of life.
Dr. Hrabowski's honors include election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, receiving the prestigious McGraw Prize in Education, receiving the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, being named Marylander of the Year by the editors of the Baltimore Sun, and being listed among Fast Company magazine’s first “Fast 50 Champions of Innovation” in business and technology.
Dr. Hrabowski graduated from the Hampton Institute at age 19, with highest honors in mathematics. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he received his Master’s Degree in mathematics and, four years later, earned his Ph.D. in higher education administration/statistics at the age of 24.
The Martin Luther King celebration concluded with a performance by the Community A.M.E. Zion Church Choir.
It included the memorable moment where the singers, young and adult, sang and used sign language to perform a beautiful rendition of "We Shall Overcome."