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WCU Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 13, 2011

Events surrounding this year's Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration will flow across two days – Thursday, Jan. 20, and Friday, Jan. 21 – with service projects, performances, meals and movies. The celebration culminates with the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brunch, during which the 2011 Drum Major for Justice will be honored.

The title Drum Major for Justice is taken from one of Dr. King’s sermons, which he gave the same year he was assassinated. In that speech, Dr. King talks about his life and how he hopes to be remembered:

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. … Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.”

This year’s Drum Major for Justice is Ronn Jenkins, a 1965 graduate of West Chester State College who had been aggressively recruited by West Chester from William Penn High School in York, Pa., for his academic achievements and excellent diving skills. He earned his master’s degree from Bucknell University in 1972 and his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981.

While attending West Chester, he won a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference individual diving title and a Mid-Atlantic Conference diving championship. Named the school’s most outstanding athlete, he also captured two Junior Olympic national titles and was vice president of his junior class.

Jenkins returned to West Chester in 1972 as Assistant Dean of Students after completing his master’s degree and, over a 35-year period, advanced to other positions including Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity; director of the Advisement Center; and chair of the Department of Educational Services. He served as a role model, teacher, mentor and advisor to thousands of students, enhancing their leadership development skills through his work in Student Affairs. He was a highly sought-after academic advisor who also supported University employees, ensuring that equal opportunity and social justice objectives were achieved.

Beyond his professional attributes, Jenkins has excelled in the sport of diving. He has been nationally recognized, serving on the NCAA Swimming and Diving Committee, the National YMCA Swimming and Diving Committee and as chair of the United States Diving Committee on Diversity. In 1995 he was named the NCAA Diving Officials Coordinator for the Diving World Cup and he served in the same role at the Olympic Games in Beijing. In 2009, he was inducted into the WCU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jenkins’ illustrious career has cast him as a legendary diving coach in the Greater Philadelphia region who mentored and tutored numerous All-American and championship divers from diverse backgrounds both at West Chester University and through the many private lessons he gave. Equally notable, he has coached the men’s and women’s diving teams as a volunteer for more than 38 years, continuing to do so even now as a retiree.

Jenkins will be honored at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brunch on Friday, Jan. 21, details of which are below.

Events to honor Dr. King begin on Thursday; all but the Friday brunch are free. The complete schedule follows (click here for a pdf). For more information, call 610-436-6974.

Thursday, Jan. 20
3 – 5 p.m.
“In Dr. King’s Memory, Giving Comfort to Others Service Project.” Sykes Ballrooms. Help make fleece blankets for the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children. Sponsored by the Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs.

4:30 – 7 p.m. Soul Food Dinner. Traditions in Lawrence Center. Faculty/staff/students $6.50; non-WCU guests $7.90. Students may use meal plan.

6:30 – 7:30 p.m. WCU Gospel Choir Performance, Liturgical Dance and Mime. Sykes Student Union Theater.

8 p.m. Movie: The Great Debaters. Sykes Student Union Theater. Seen as a radical by many whites in his 1930s Texas community, Wiley College professor Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington, who also directed the film) finds himself at the center of a racially charged firestorm as he leads his African-American debating team to the national championships. Co-produced by Oprah Winfrey. Sponsored by the Student Activities Council.

Friday, Jan. 21
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brunch. Sykes Student Union Ballrooms Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., video/student interviews (runs continuously). Help feed our community: Bring a monetary donation to the registration table and receive a limited edition MLK button. All donations go to the West Chester Food Bank. Tickets: $35 per person or $280 for a table of eight. Available at SSI Ticket Office: 610-436-2266. Sponsored by West Chester University and the Frederick Douglass Society.