One is a Frederick Douglass Scholar and Edinboro University instructor who is dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion and equity through research and education. The other is an Edinboro scholar-athlete and wheelchair basketball standout who works with veterans and grade schools to promote positive citizenship.
Lewis A. Brownlee, an instructor in EU’s School of Education, was recognized with the 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Award Friday for his commitment to enhancing diversity in the classroom. Edinboro University student William Speed, a junior Sports & Recreation Administration and Journalism scholar-athlete, earned the second annual Dr. Joseph Laythe Award for championing equality and social justice on and off campus.
President H. Fred Walker presented the MLK Award to Brownlee during Friday’s luncheon and reaffirmed Edinboro’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through a welcoming institution.
“Today’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Awards Luncheon is one of the ways we demonstrate that commitment,” Walker said. “At this luncheon we pause to remind ourselves of our common humanity and the timeless importance of Dr. King’s message of respect, justice and service to others.”
Brownlee serves as a liaison between Edinboro University and Erie High School for dual-enrollment students, enhancing the understanding of diversity in the classroom for pre-service teachers. As the Frederick Douglass Scholar, he has led two panel discussions designed to foster civil discourse among Edinboro students on contemporary social justice issues in America.
Speed achieves success both on and off the court by maintaining a 3.79 grade point average and balancing responsibilities as a wheelchair basketball athlete and volunteering to help others. He was awarded the Violet Baumgardner Scholarship from the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance – the first Edinboro student to receive this statewide award.
A transplant of Charlotte, N.C., Speed relocated to play basketball with the hopes of reaching the professional level. In the process, he initiated many volunteer roles and joined Edinboro’s Highland Ambassadors.
“Will leads by example, quietly challenging systems that prevent students and persons with disabilities access to fitness and recreational athletic opportunities,” Dr. Amy Eperthener, instructor in EU’s Health and Physical Education Department, stated in her nomination.
The Dr. Laythe Award was created in honor of the well-loved EU history professor who died in March 2016 after a courageous battle with cancer. His wife, Christine, and daughter, Lydia, were unable to attend the event, but continue to support the legacy of their family patriarch.
“Dr. Laythe touched the hearts and souls of those he came into contact with,” said Pertrina Marrero, EU’s director of Diversity and Inclusion. “Graduates, students and colleagues have been inspired by his lectures, engaged by his charisma, and enriched personally and academically by his commitment to history and to justice.”
Melissa Burnett and Ryan Stratton, who earned last year’s MLK and Laythe awards, respectively, attended Friday’s presentation and read from Dr. King’s speech “Where Do We Go from Here,” which was delivered by Dr. King on Aug. 16, 1967 at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta.
Edinboro University hosts the luncheon annually during Black History Month to help carry on King’s legacy by honoring individuals such as Brownlee and Speed for keeping the civil rights leader’s dream alive.
Since 1997, more than 40 community leaders have been honored with the Edinboro University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award to celebrate King’s legacy and to honor northwestern Pennsylvania citizens who embody King’s spirit, philosophy and teachings. The Dr. Joseph Laythe Award expands on that tradition by paying tribute to a man who, like King, was deeply dedicated to justice.
With photo: Edinboro University President H. Fred Walker (center) recognized Edinboro faculty member Lewis A. Brownlee and EU student William Speed with the Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Joseph Laythe awards, respectively. The 2017 winners, EU student Ryan Stratton and retired staff member Melissa Burnett, joined the 2018 recipients for Friday’s award ceremony.