Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

WWU freshman is first winner of the University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day essay contest

William Woods unveiled a new tradition on January 18, 2022 – the University’s first-ever Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, an opportunity to reflect upon the inspirational legacy of America’s greatest civil rights leader. The inaugural gathering, held inside the Neilsen Room at Tucker Dining Hall, was also to recognize the winner of the first-ever Martin Luther King Day essay contest.

Rhondell Tipton, a freshman from Columbia, Mo., was named as the first recipient of the new award. In his essay, which he read aloud at the breakfast, Tipton cited King’s storied “Drum Major for Justice, for Peace and for Righteousness” speech as his inspiration.

“Dr. King’s quote serves as evidence that the promised land is possible, and that every single life matters no matter the gender or skin color,” Tipton wrote. “This quote means so much to me personally. I have lived to experience so many things and using this quote has put the puzzle pieces together for an individual like me. I live to promote motivation, positivity, and hard work from the strands of my afro down to me toes, and I believe Dr. King would be proud of the generations after him pushing toward higher mountains.”

Speakers at the event, in addition to Tipton, included WWU President Jeremy Moreland, Associate Professor of Business Dr. Thomas Trice, Director of the WWU Office of Diversity and Inclusion Darianne Maclin and University Chaplain Travis Tamerius.

“Let this occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2022 be a time when everyone in the William Woods community vows to honor his memory and legacy by engaging individuals that are different than us,” said Dr. Moreland in his remarks. “If our national discourse on this critical issue is ever going to swing permanently in the direction of brotherhood for all, it will require role models in every community, and on every college campus, who don’t just call out for respectful engagement, but live it.”

The first MLK Day Breakfast at William Woods was facilitated by Dr. Trice and other members of the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, with plans for the commemoration to become a permanent, yearly tradition.

“Often times the word leadership is over generalized. Walking my own journey as a young black male and first generational college student, I have always found the individuals that make the greatest impact on you have one common thread – they do what they do not for recognition but to leave a legacy,” said Dr. Trice. “Dr. King and the embodiment of what he did and stood for personifies this. As a teaching institution, our recognition of his dream to build equality, and to show love to everyone regardless of gender or race should be a bedrock of our institution. The essay contest seeks to identify students that not only aspire to be like Dr. King but also walk the walk. Today’s events and essay winner brought all of these things together along with the hard work of the DEI committee and newly established WWU Leadership Center.” 

“I am honored to participate in the process of bringing this event to campus,” said Maclin. “I think it not only highlights the valuable contributions of Dr. King, but also speaks to our direction as an institution moving towards a more equitable and inclusive culture. This is especially important to me as a Black woman, living in a climate of civil unrest and hardship for marginalized communities.”

Today’s inaugural event is the latest initiative at WWU to help strengthen the University’s commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion. In just the past year, William Woods has established a new Multicultural Enrichment Center, Black Student Union and a first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship.