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The Personal Impact of Martin Luther King Across Rose-Hulman

January 13, 2012

In addition to a week of institutional events celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King's life and work, diverse smaller celebrations will come alive across the corners and classrooms of Rose-Hulman on Martin Luther King Day. For example, the Humanities Department will continue its tradition of running the "I Have a Dream" speech in a continuous loop on their lobby media screen for passersby to see.

Some professors will be celebrating Dr. King in their classes. "Every year on Martin Luther King Day," says literature professor Dr. Caroline Carvill, "I take 20 minutes to show the Martin Luther King 'I have a Dream' speech in class."

"I'm a great admirer of his courage and his dedication to non-violent resistance," Carvill adds, "which is, in my mind, one of the most difficult paths to go down -- to go into a dangerous situation determined not to fight back -- and it worked."

On Monday at 4:30 p.m., Carvill will also be showing an episode of the acclaimed PBS series on the Civil Rights movement, Eyes on the Prize, and she will lead a discussion after the film.

 
Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech  

Celebrating Martin Luther King Day can be as diverse as the people his dreams have inspired. When mathematics professor Dr. Diane Evans considers the civil rights Dr. King fought for, she thinks of a world that welcomes those who are openly gay. "My dream would be for people to not judge me for being created differently than them.  Please trust that I'm only being true to myself."

Many other activities around campus are fueled by individuals with a debt of personal gratitude.

"I think that I would not be where I am today if not for the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," says Dr. Carlotta Berry, the teaching dynamo behind Rose-Hulman's exceptional robotics minor program.

"Dr. King has had an enormous impact on me, personally and professionally," says English Professor Dr. Corey Taylor, who has spent considerable time studying King's writings and biography. "I teach some of his speeches in my African American Literature course, and occasionally his famous 'Letter from Birmingham Jail,' one of the finest pieces of expository writing by an American, or anyone else for that matter... in addition to his heroic stature he was an incredible thinker, a man of action, and yet was very human."

For Carvill the story of the Little Rock Nine has personal significance. Central High School, where nine African-American students made their 1957 stand against segregation, happens to be the school Carvill graduated from herself. 

"When the Little Rock Nine walked into Central, they changed history but they also changed my life," said Carvill. "I know that those 9 children -- because that's what they were, children -- changed my life irrevocably and for the better, and I'm very grateful to them for that. And students don't know what happened at Central High."

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King famously said, "I have a dream that one day my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." And Dr. Berry believes she is the recipient of this dream come true.  

Berry Cover  
Dr. Carlotta Berry has helped students sit at the table of
the Robotics industry by providing early experience
 

"His dream has given me a seat at the table," Berry says.  "The dream allowed me to obtain 4 degrees and become a professor at one of the top undergraduate engineering institutions in the country." 

Berry has diversity dreams of her own.  "I look forward to the day when I don't hear people ask questions such as 'why do we need diversity?' In fact, I live the answer every day, just by coming to work to interact with people who are not like me. I learn from them, teach them, value them and I know that I am a better person because of it." 

Pointing out that Dr. King's dream is still working its way through the system, Berry mentions that there are still fewer than 200 female African-American professors in the United States. "If you count full professors it is probably less than 20... I am looking for the day when people are no longer surprised to find out that I am an engineer, a doctor, or a professor." 

On two "dream walls," set up in Moench Hall and Hulman Union, students, faculty, and staff have been invited to capture this moment in the progress of Martin Luther King's work by contributing their dreams for diversity.  Some dreams will be simple and heartfelt, others will make you stop and think.

"My dream would be for all adults in this world to see through the eyes of children," says Office of Student Affairs Graduate Assistant Kate E. Pippins. "Children are the true 'diversitarians' in this world.  It is only by the influence of adults in their lives that children's eyes change such that they begin to view people by minor details, rather than by the beauty of the bigger picture."

See full event schedule for details.