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Four honored with MLK Leadership Awards

Four MIT community members will receive Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Awards at MIT's 30th annual breakfast to celebrate Dr. King's life and legacy on Thursday, Feb. 5.

Professor J. Phillip Thompson of urban studies and planning, chemical engineering graduate student LaRuth C. McAfee, associate dean for graduate students Blanche Staton, and physician-alumnus Salvatore J. Molica will be honored for their academic, research, religious and/or secular service to the community.

The breakfast--open to all members of the MIT community--will begin at 7:30 a.m. in Walker Memorial's Morss Hall. Reservation requests must be made by Tuesday, Feb. 3. To request a reservation, go to

Julianne M. Malveaux (Ph.D. 1980), an economist, author and syndicated columnist, will give the keynote speech on the theme of this year's celebration, "Rhetoric or Reality: Civil Rights Under Siege."


Phillip Thompson came to MIT in 2000 as a Martin Luther King Fellow and joined the faculty of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) in 2002 as associate professor of urban politics and community development. He has been involved with the development of the department's Practica subjects, which engage MIT students and faculty in assisting distressed communities.

"He addressed the issues of race, class and power in ways that have energized and galvanized the diverse student body in DUSP," wrote Professor Lawrence Vale, head of DUSP, and Carolyn Makinson, executive director of the Center for International Studies, in their nomination letter.

"Phil was instrumental in linking students to the real world of race and politics and elevating the dialogue with his extraordinary intellectual breadth and his ability to engage outside speakers in a way that was provocative but never contentious," Vale and Makinson wrote.


Blanche Staton has been associate dean for graduate students since 1997. She initiated MIT's participation in the MentorNet program, which offers electronic mentoring for women students in engineering and science. Staton initiated an Institute-wide program to honor minority administrators, supported creation of the Women's Book Club as a community-building activity for women graduate students, and led development of a pilot leadership program for graduate students.

"Perhaps what students most appreciate is her ability to listen patiently and sympathetically and be a soothing and calming mentor even under difficult circumstances," said the four community members who nominated Staton, who also is president of the board of the Cambridge Community Center.


LaRuth McAfee, a graduate student in chemical engineering, is treasurer of the Graduate Student Council and chair of its Funding Board. While serving as chair of the GSC's Orientation Committee, she put together a graduate student volunteer day which is now a regular part of orientation. She is co-chair of the Black Graduate Students Association and received a grant from the GSC Student Life program to encourage collaboration among student groups. In addition to her work on campus, McAfee tutors children in math and science on Saturday mornings in a Cambridge church. She was nominated by fellow student council member Emily Snyder, who wrote, "LaRuth exudes leadership qualities."


Salvatore Molica, who earned the S.B. in biology from MIT in 1975, is being honored for his commitment to public health and family medicine. As medical director of the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, he helped establish outreach programs that now serve as national models for the innovative engagement of health care professionals in their communities. Larry Culpepper, chair of the Family Medicine Department at Boston University School of Medicine, describes the programs created by Molica as "models of the integration of primary care and public health in supporting the rebuilding of high-risk urban regions."

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