Reminiscences, Diversity Awards Honor MLK’s Legacy
Interdisciplinary Studies Dean George Fair Lauded for Dedication to University
Jan. 16, 2009
On what would have been his 80th birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored Thursday in speech and in spirit during the University’s seventh annual breakfast and diversity award ceremony held in his honor.
A keynote speech by Xernona Clayton, founder of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, an organization that annually recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of top African Americans, kicked off the morning.
In a moving and often humorous talk, Clayton offered reflections about the fallen civil rights leader — whom she knew — and encouraged the students in attendance to work hard and focus on their goals.
“Dr. Martin Luther King wanted us all to enjoy the fruits that were granted to us,” Clayton reflected. “I encourage you to go to school and to prepare for something, but don’t ever pass up an opportunity. Dr. King was a man with a mission who took the time to occupy his life, to save the world of its ills, and to make it a better place for all.”
New this year, the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement gave its first Faculty Diversity Award, which was accompanied by a $2,500 stipend.
Dr. George Fair, recipient of the award and dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, was praised for his leadership within the school and at the University, as well as for his values and dedication to community service throughout the North Texas region.
Fair has served as dean since 1994. In 1999, he initiated the University’s widely praised Academic Bridge Program (ABP). The ABP seeks to attract, support and retain students with high class rankings but who may not have completed the full university-track curriculum or met all the University’s rigorous entrance requirements.
The ABP advocates smaller classes for its members, with 20 or fewer students per instructor. It also provides tutoring and supplemental instruction, campus orientation activities, extracurricular activities and field trips. Students enrolled in the program receive academic and social support throughout their tenure at UT Dallas.
In addition to his duties as dean, Fair conducts research about homeless youth. In fact, in the Dallas area alone, he has helped raised more than $4 million over the last 10 years to assist with the education of children and youth from local homeless families.
Along those lines, Fair coordinates an annual Kids University program at UT Dallas in partnership with Rainbow Days Inc. Held each summer, the weeklong program provides children the opportunity to learn about the importance of a college education.
In accepting the award, Fair offered congratulations and praise to those in the audience and beyond.
“This is not just an award for me — it goes to the entire University — and I thank my staff and students for their dedication to the cause of diversity,” Fair said.
During the breakfast, the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement also gave two Corporate Diversity awards. Texas Instruments was recognized for the company’s creation of the Diversity Graduate Fellowship, and Ericsson was praised for its contributions to the Academic Bridge Program and the School of Management via the Ericsson Academic Scholarship.
The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement devotes itself to embracing, enhancing and celebrating diversity at all levels of the University and the community through the efforts of faculty, staff, students, the executive leadership and community partnerships.
The theme for this year’s celebration was “He Had a Dream.” The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Multicultural Center and a host of student organizations sponsored Clayton’s talk.
King’s birthday was Jan. 15. The MLK holiday for staff and students will be observed Jan. 19, the same day as the federal holiday.
“Dr. King was a man with a mission who took the time to occupy his life, to save the world of its ills, and to make it a better place for all,” said Xernona Clayton, the keynote speaker at UT Dallas seventh annual MLK breakfast.
Dean George Fair (center) is congratulated by UT Dallas President David E. Daniel and Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Magaly Spector.