Jan. 13, 2012

Martin LutherKing Jr. commemorated with special programming and awards

MLK drum majors

Retired faculty member Joyce Wechsler, second from left, and Kaaren Smith were awarded MLK Drum Major Awards for their efforts in service of others at Geneseo's annual MLK Day of Leadership and Service on Jan. 16. They are with Robert Bonfiglio, vice president for student and campus life, left, and Tom Matthews, associate dean of leadership and service. /PHOTO BY KEITH WALTERS '11





The college kicked off a series of events, lectures and service projects in honor of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 16., including honoring two residents for their work in service of others.

Geneseo awarded MLK Drum Major Awards to two women, one for demonstrating extraordinary efforts in advocating for senior citizens and the other for championing matters of faith and spirituality on campus.

Kaaren Smith, director of the Livingston County Office of the Aging, and Joyce Wechsler, a retired faculty member, received the awards during the college's annual MLK Day of Leadership and Service. The awards were initiated by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service and were inspired by King's historic speech on the drum major instinct.

Smith has worked with senior citizens in the area for 32 years, including her work as director of the Office of the Aging. She has also served as the senior nutrition program project director for the Livingston County Coalition of Churches.

Wechsler is a retired Geneseo health and physical education faculty member and volleyball coach and has been instrumental in sustaining the Geneseo Interfaith Center, a campus home for students interested in matters of faith and spirituality. Wechsler is also involved in other community service activities including maintaining books at Wadsworth Library and is recording secretary of the local land conservancy board. She has been active in the Genesee Valley Hunt and the Geneseo Torch Club.

"Both of our honorees have worked tirelessly to address the needs of senior citizens in the Livingston County area and those of our students and they have my esteem for making a difference in our community with little recognition," said Robert Bonfiglio, vice president for student and campus life, who presented the awards. "Kaaren has lived a lifetime of service and without her, there may not have been a Livingston County Office of the Aging. Joyce's leadership was critical to the continued operation of the Interfaith Center and without her involvement, we might not have a functioning Interfaith Center today."

MLK Day logoMLK Day of Leadership and Service activities focused on intergenerational and interfaith service. More than 120 students, faculty, staff and local senior citizens participated in educational presentations about King's legacy, followed by projects to serve area senior citizens.

Distinguished Teaching Professor of History Bill Cook spoke about King's legacy. Then, participants attended leadership workshops through the Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development program.

During a lunchtime keynote address, teacher and civil rights activist Lulu Westbrooks-Griffin addressed "Freedom is Not Free," the story of her arrest in Americus, Ga., in 1963.

In the afternoon, participants engaged in service projects to assist some 400 home-bound senior citizens in Livingston County, such as creating dry soup mixes; writing greeting cards and notes; assembling File of Life Everyday Information Kits; and cutting fleece for scarves. Thirty senior citizens from the Livingston County Office for the Aging Foster Grandparent Program worked alongside the students.

Other commemoration events include:

  • March 8 — A lecture by civil rights movement activists Judy Richardson, Dorothy Zellner and Betty Garman Robinson, who are also the editors of the book "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC." They will speak at 7 p.m. in the MacVittie Union Ballroom.
  • March 7, Richardson will lead a discussion of the film "Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre, 1968," and lead a community organizing workshop for students. Also on March 7, Robinson will lead a community organizing workshop for students. Both events are free and open to the public but the workshop requires advance registration through Emilye Crosby, professor of history or Catherine Adams, assistant professor of history, or Sue Ann Brainard, associate librarian.

The Corporation for National and Community Services leads the annual nationwide MLK Day of Service, working with the King Center in Atlanta and thousands of schools, nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations and businesses. On the Geneseo campus, The GOLD Program is partnering with college's Division of Student and Campus Life; Center for Community; Office of Multicultural Programs and Services; Office of Volunteerism and Service; MacVittie College Union and Activities; the Student Association; Campus Auxiliary Services; and the Foster Grandparent Program at the Livingston County Office for the Aging.