And that is how Oregon State students, faculty, staff and their families commemorated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., by volunteering in the community and attending events and presentations during the university’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

A total of 279 people volunteered at the MLK Jr. Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 13, completing 11 projects and contributing nearly 700 hours of service. Projects ranged from cleaning garden beds at a local elementary school to packing boxes of food for Linn Benton Food Share to painting the Arc’s Philomath thrift store. 

At the peace breakfast, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 15, three outstanding members of the Oregon State community were recognized: 

Linda Marie Richards, a history of science instructor, received the Phyllis Lee Award. The award honors a member of the Oregon State community who exemplifies Lee’s commitment and dedication to social justice and King’s teachings. 

Leonora Rianda, an office specialist for ethnic studies and president of OSU Local 083, received the Frances Dancy Hooks Award. It recognizes Oregon State students, staff or faculty who exemplify Hooks’ work building bridges across cultures and showing courage in promoting diversity.

Demetrius Watts, president of the OSU Phi Beta Sigma chapter and a student in human development and family sciences, received the Oscar Humberto Montemayor Award. Created this year, the award honors Montemayor, who served the Oregon State community with diligence and grace over a 30-year career. It is given to a student who embodies his ethos of selfless service; steady, strong, considerate leadership; and trailblazing spirit and heart.

Following the breakfast was the keynote presentation by Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou presidential chair at Wake Forest University, executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Her presentation covered what she believes has changed and what hasn’t in America since King’s murder in 1968. She encouraged the audience to continue his cause for social justice.

After Harris-Perry’s keynote, about 200 people marched from The LaSells Stewart Center to the front steps of the Memorial Union, where a recording of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech was played.

A march from The LaSells Stewart Center to the Memorial Union follows the peace breakfast during Oregon State's annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.  (Photo: Julian McFadden)