Hiram College encapsulates Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideologies from the start
From its corridors to its classrooms and since its 1850 beginning as the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, Hiram College has embraced a civil rights ideology in stride with that of the late Dr. Martin Luther King.
“People of color, women and men, were admitted to Hiram from the onset,” says Dee West, associate dean of students and director of diversity and inclusion, noting that one of the College’s first graduating classes included an African-American student among its members. “This is what drove Hiram as a place where people study, learn, grow and develop as human beings. [Likewise], Dr. King wanted people to have access to education so they could have full lives.”
In honor of Dr. King, Hiram will present a series of events next week, beginning with a Jan. 16 service program that will join high school students with students from the College. Hiram students will share their college experiences through a panel discussion focused on what it means to be a college student and to take the leap from high school to higher education.
“Dr. King was all about reflection and telling a personal story. In this spirit, our students will speak to their struggles and successes. This panel will give high school students a chance to hear from those who are walking the walk,” West says.
Interested Hiram students will later take an outing to the Cinemark 1 Aurora theater to watch “Hidden Figures.” The film tells the story of NASA’s Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, African-American women who served as “the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit …,” as noted in the film’s website description.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities continue at 7:30 p.m. when members of the Hiram community will gather at the Dining Hall for “Coming Together as One: A Campus Dialogue on Building Coalitions Across Racial, Cultural and Political Boundaries.” During this event, which is supported by the North Coast Athletic Conference and Hiram College Athletics Department – with a grant made possible by the NCAA – attendees will break out for discussions on diversity as they address a series of related questions.
“It is our hope to create an environment that engages our students, faculty, staff and alumni in order to have meaningful discussion in regard to race relations and how we can work together as a campus to continue to affect positive change,” says Ellen Dempsey, director of athletics.
The MLK celebration continues on “Wear White for Peace” Day, Tuesday, Jan. 17. Free white ribbons and peace symbols will be available at the Kennedy Center Welcome Center to all interested in showing their support of peace. The week of tribute to Dr. King concludes on Thursday, Jan. 19 with a bread and soup dinner and reading of Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” at the Kennedy Center ballroom. The letter underscores Dr. King’s devotion to nonviolent resistance to racism and his plea to fellow members of the clergy to embrace the movement.
MLK Week 2017 is co-funded by the Hiram College Office of Admission, Hiram College Athletics, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a grant from the NCAA. For more information, call 330-569-5327.