Several events at Purdue will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

November 28, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University is planning several activities in December and January to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2012 celebration, with the theme The Fierce Urgency of Now, will begin with the annual Boiler Care-and-Share drive. From Dec. 5 through Jan. 12, more than 35 Purdue departments will have boxes to collect nonfood donations.

 The Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion has appointed a standing committee, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Planning Committee, which will annually coordinate the university's MLK celebration activities. Composed of faculty, staff, student representatives and community partners, the committee is chaired by Irwin Weiser, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Renee Thomas, director of Purdue's Black Cultural Center.

"The creation of this committee is an important institutional move for the campus as it puts in place another part of our ongoing commitment to building a just and diverse community," said G. Christine Taylor, vice provost for diversity and inclusion. "I am extremely pleased with the work of the committee and the leadership of Dean Weiser and Renee Thomas."

The committee is encouraging academic units and administrative departments to host events to honor King and are urged to contact the co-chairs about their programs.

One of the highlights will be the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address, from a noted Civil Rights movement participant, at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Loeb Playhouse in Stewart Center. Professor Bernice Johnson Reagon, a member of The Freedom Singers, will give the keynote lecture, "The Fierce Urgency of Now."

Other events will include K-12 educational outreach, library displays, a choral salute and a day of service. Some of the highlights:

* K-12 educational activities in Lafayette, Indianapolis and Gary public schools. Purdue will give teachers curriculum that presents the Civil Rights movement and King through the eyes of youth for use in the classrooms. Students also will be invited to participate in a candlelight vigil that will precede the keynote address. Also, two teachers whose work embodies King's message of unity and commitment to improving the lives of others will receive grants and be recognized during the keynote address event.

* The Boiler Care-and-Share nonfood donation drive will continue through Jan. 12. Those interested may place their donations at boxes located at various campus buildings. Suggested items include baby powder, brushes, bathroom tissue, bath soap, mouthwash, combs, pens, notepads, children's books and dictionaries. The items will be donated to Food Finders Food Bank Inc., which serves 16 Indiana counties including Tippecanoe.

* Jan. 18. 6 p.m. A candlelight vigil at the Black Cultural Center, 1100 Third St., West Lafayette, will precede the keynote lecture. Organized by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, participants will march to Stewart Center.

* Jan. 18. 7 p.m. Loeb Playhouse in Stewart Center. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address. Reagon, the speaker, is professor emerita of history at American University and curator emerita at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The 2002-04 Cosby Chair Professor of Fine Arts at Spelman College in Atlanta, she was featured in the 1992 Emmy-nominated PBS documentary "The Songs Are Free: Bernice Johnson Reagon with Bill Moyers." She also was the conceptual producer and narrator of the Peabody Award-winning radio series "Wade in the Water, African American Sacred Music Traditions."

* Jan. 18. The Purdue Dreamer Award will be presented at the MLK keynote lecture. The award, established in 2004, is given annually to an individual or organization within the Purdue community to honor contributions that embody Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of service to others and that further the university's commitment to diversity.

* Jan. 9-20. Several MLK documentaries and movies will be shown on Boiler TV.

* Jan. 9-20. Purdue Libraries faculty and staff will use libraries' collections and services to create and mount displays in libraries across campus on a variety of topics related to the theme The Fierce Urgency of Now.

* Jan. 15. 4 p.m. University Church. A special choral salute to King, coordinated by the Rev. James Foster of Word of Life Church and the Pastors Alliance, and Twana Harris, director of the BCC's Black Voices of Inspiration. The event will feature a combined singing force of mixed voices. Rehearsals for the concert are scheduled at 6:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 5 and Jan. 9 at the BCC.

* Jan. 16. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Day of Service, coordinated by Boiler Volunteer Network. Open to Purdue students, faculty, staff members and retirees. Volunteers will spend time with one of more than 100 community service agencies in Tippecanoe County, including those that work with animals, children, seniors, health care and the homeless.

A website, still under construction, has information on all activities at

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, 

Sources: Renee Thomas, 765-494-3091,

                 G. Christine Taylor, 765-494-6969,