ST. GEORGE — In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dixie State University is honoring the legacy the civil rights icon with a set of keynote addresses.
Hosted by the Office of DSU’s Chief Diversity Officer, the university’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will kick off with a presentation by Dr. Ronald Coleman. A retired University of Utah professor and associate vice president of diversity and inclusion, Coleman will present “African Americans in Utah: A Historical Perspective.
“The importance of Dixie State University’s diversity initiative is to make people aware of the past, so we can try not to make the same mistakes in the future,” Doajo Hicks, DSU’s chief diversity officer, said.
Immediately following Coleman’s address, Dr. Wilfred Samuels, retired professor of African American literature and poetry also from the University of Utah, will present “Bearing Witness to the Life of Dr. Martin L. King Jr.”
The Dixie State campus will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the lecture series will begin Tuesday at 11 a.m. Both addresses will be held in the Living Room of the Kenneth N. Gardner Student Center on the Dixie State campus, and each address is slated to last an hour. Light refreshments will be served, and the community is encouraged to attend.
Coleman and Samuels will again meet with students, faculty, staff and community members Wednesday to speak about African American literature, diversity initiatives and open dialogue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Gardner Student Center.
During his address, Coleman will provide an overview of the history of African Americans in Utah. A specialist in Utah African American History, Coleman taught a course on Dr. King as a faculty member in the University of Utah’s History Department and the Ethnic Studies Program, where he worked for 42 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a doctorate in history from the University of Utah.
Coleman’s involvement in history, education and community service is exemplified by him receiving teaching and diversity awards at the University of Utah, the Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP Albert Fritz Civil Rights Worker of the Year Award, the Utah Humanities Council’s Governors Award, The Days of ’47 Pioneers of Progress Award for Historic and Creative Arts and the University of Utah Alumni Associations Emeritus Merit of Honor Award.
Samuels, who witnessed King speak at Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena, California, will speak about his research and life experiences throughout the civil rights movement. A member of the University of Utah emeritus faculty, Samuels was a professor of English and ethnic studies there as well as the director of its African American Studies Program and coordinator of the Ethnic Studies Program.
Samuels earned a bachelor’s degree in English and black studies from the University of California at Riverside and master’s and doctoral degrees in American studies and African American studies from the University of Iowa.
Samuels is the founding president of the African American Literature and Culture Society of the American Literature Association. A well published scholar, Samuels has received multiple teaching and diversity awards from the University of Utah, the Salt Lake City NAACP’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award and the American Literature Association’s Distinguished Service Award. In December 2016, China’s Hangzhou University conferred the title of Distinguish Scholar upon him.
Dixie State University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration is held in alignment with the university’s strategic goal to promote the success of underserved and underrepresented faculty, staff and students by enhancing support for inclusion and equity. Learn more at the Dixie State University Inclusion and Equality website.