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Three honored with MLK awards

A Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visiting professor who received her PhD from MIT in 1985, a prize-winning student-artist who is majoring in mechanical engineering and an administrative assistant in the Department of Political Science will receive the 1998 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards.

Visiting Professor Lynda Jordan of chemistry, junior Eto Otitigbe and Tobie Weiner will be honored at MIT's 24th annual breakfast to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Friday, Feb. 13 at 8am in Walker Memorial's Morss Hall.

The theme for this year's celebration is "'The Same Old Bone': The Campaign Against Affirmative Action." The keynote speaker will be attorney Lezli Baskerville, general counsel of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).

President Charles Vest, host of the breakfast, will also speak. Provost Joel Moses will recognize the 1997-98 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors -- Winston Soboyejo in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Ernesto Cortes in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (who was just named a winner of a Heinz Foundation award -- see page 3), Louis Thomas in the Sloan School of Management, Steven Lee, who was in the Department of Mathematics during the fall semester, and Dr. Jordan.

"I am deeply humbled to receive a leadership award in the name of such a great man as Martin Luther King Jr.," said Dr. Jordan, an associate professor at North Carolina A&T State University, her alma mater. "With the grace and the strength of God, I hope that I will be able to inspire at least one young person to transcend the obstacles and pursue dreams at the highest level."

In nominating Professor Jordan for a leadership award, Senior Assistant Dean Isaac Colbert wrote: "Lynda uses her experiences at every opportunity to teach younger minority and female students about the incomparable values of perseverance and hard work, about self-confidence and professionalism, and about cultivating challengers, supporters and listeners along one's journey through life. She has encouraged young scholars to think about their psychological, social and academic survival and has given practical advice in each arena."

Mr. Otitigbe won the prestigious List Foundation Fellowship for the Arts last year and used it to pursue his studies at Wellesley College and the Printmaking Workshop in New York. An exhibition of his work was presented at the Weisner Student Art Gallery. He has organized an annual poetry slam for students from colleges in the area and a series of field trips to films and other cultural events.

"One of the greatest pleasures of my work at MIT is the opportunity to mentor students," wrote Maureen Costello, director of special programs. "Eto has far and away proved to be an exceptional student. There are days when I felt I have learned more from him."

Mr. Otitigbe of Albany, NY, the senior co-chair of Chocolate City, was a student speaker at last year's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast. The theme was "The Strength to Love" (the title of a collection of Dr. King's sermons). Mr. Otitigbe asked the audience: "If love were against the law, would you be guilty?"

Ms. Weiner directs a course on "Community Service -- Experience and Reflection" and has placed numerous MIT students with community organizations. She has coordinated a freshman seminar entitled "The Civil Rights Movement and Beyond: What Can We Learn from the '50s and '60s to Fight Racism Today?" She also conducts seminars on "Conversations You Can't Have on Campus: Serious (But Fun) Discussions About Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Identity," which may be offered by living groups on and off-campus during the spring semester.

"It has been a great experience for me and has brought together a number of diverse students for open discussion on these difficult issues," she said.

Ms. Weiner helped organize an open forum on the responsibility intellectuals have to inner-city residents, a screening of a documentary film on Malcolm X entitled "Make It Plain," an open discussion of the O.J. Simpson verdict on the day it was announced, an annual IAP course dedicated to social justice themes and a yearly student forum on interracial dating.

In his letter nominating her, Assistant Professor Daniel Kryder of political science wrote: "Tobie Weiner lives and shares and regenerates [Dr. King's] optimistic belief in the cause of a just society."

On Saturday, Feb. 14, the King celebration continues with the ninth annual weekend youth council for high school students from Boston and Cambridge. The theme of the day-long event will be "Youth: The Future, Technology and Entrepreneurship." Melvin King, senior lecturer emeritus in urban studies and planning and a founder of the MIT Community Fellows program, will be the guest speaker.

The celebration will conclude with "Journey Into a Dream," the fifth annual musical tribute to Dr. King by jazz vocalist Semenya McCord and associates in Kresge Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 8pm. Admission to the concert is free and the public is invited.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 28, 1998.

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