Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2014

Webster University will be closed for the holiday, but will host several special events commemorating the civil rights leader during the week.

ST. LOUIS - Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 is Martin Luther King Jr Day, an annual federal holiday in the United States celebrating the civil rights leader around his birthday. Webster University campuses in the U.S. are closed for this holiday as the Webster community recalls the impact Dr. King had in a pivotal era of the nation's history.

Over the next few weeks Webster University’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs office is holding several events to commemorate and live through the legacy Dr. King left the world:

  • The MLK Day of Service on Thursday, Jan. 23, includes service activities at noon to benefit the Saint Louis Homeless Winter Outreach.
  • The same day, at 7 p.m. in the Sunnen Lounge, special guest Holly Schroeder of Saint Louis Homeless Winter Outreach will discuss homelessness and mental illness in St. Louis in a lecture co-sponsored by the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies.
  • On Thursday, Jan. 30, the Bystander Intervention Workshop at 6 p.m. in Sunnen Lounge is designed to empower community members to overcome the “bystander effect” and assist others in dangerous, harmful and discriminatory situations.

King's civil rights leadership, and his death in 1968, came amid a time of great social change that affected the entire nation, including Webster. The then-Webster College was led by Jacqueline Grennan Wexler, who led the institution's transfer to a lay board of trustees, led its change to a co-educational college, and created a social justice program that sent Webster students to work in St. Louis' poorest neighborhoods. These accomplishments were a testament to the forward thinking by “Sister J” and the Webster faculty and staff colleagues.

Continuing a global mission which Grennan Wexler helped foster, during the 2013-14 academic year Webster University opened its first campus on the African continent, in Accra, Ghana. Dr. King visited Ghana in 1957 at the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, to attend the nation’s independence ceremony.

As King traveled to Ghana, India, and other points around the globe, he articulated the connections between the African-American freedom struggle in the U.S. and those abroad: “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” he said.

It is in recognition of this “network of mutuality” that Webster University pursues its values of diversity and global citizenship today, promoting connections and developing educational programs that meet the needs and encourage lifelong service to our communities around the world.

Each year, Webster is nationally recognized for the number of diverse graduates receiving advanced degrees in the U.S. This past year, Webster confirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusion by appointing Webster’s first Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and Senior Director of Community Relations. In 2013, one very talented student was recognized with the full-tuition Webster University Donald M. Suggs Scholarship.

Recent recognition by Paraquad is also reflective of Webster’s inclusive core value – recognizing that diversity goes beyond ethnicity to include, gender, age, a person’s economic status, abilities, religion, education level, sexual orientation and country of origin.

[Read More: “Celebrating Webster Diversity and Inclusion, Access to Education”]

Today, as we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, we know that the fundamental inequalities due to gender, age, a person’s economic status, abilities, religion, education level, sexual orientation and country of origin persist and our work is not done. Let us celebrate his dream of diversity and inclusion that continues to inspire our actions today and in the years to come.