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"Changing Lives Through Literature" professor, retired New Bedford elementary school teacher to be honored at UMass Dartmouth MLK breakfast February 2

Nationally recognized Philadelphia educator to be keynote speaker

A UMass Dartmouth professor who is using great literature to change the lives of criminal offenders around the country, and a retired New Bedford Elementary School teacher who dedicated her life to providing hope for young people, will be awarded the university's Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award at the Fifth Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast.

The awards to English Professor Robert Waxler and retired teacher Dorothy Lopes will be presented at the university's MLK breakfast on Feb. 2 at 8:30 a.m. in the Woodland Commons Community Center at UMass Dartmouth. Tickets are $15 for faculty, staff and community members; $5 for students.

"Bob Waxler and Dorothy Lopes are true drum majors for justice," said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack. "These two individuals have dedicated their lives to instilling hope and opportunity in their fellow human beings. We are all fortunate to have them as part of our community."

The name of the award is taken from a sermon Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on February 4, 1968 just two months before he was assassinated. The sermon included the following passage: "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. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind."

Dorothy Lopes is being honored for her professional and volunteer activities. After teaching in Westport and Marion, Ms. Lopes spent 17 years as a teacher at New Bedford's Carney Academy (retiring in 1989), and assisted with the establishment of the city's first charter school. She is a founding member of the South Central Community Development Corp., which promotes community stability by assisting individuals' home-purchasing efforts. She has long been involved with the National Black Catholic Congress.

She is an active volunteer for, among other organizations, Market Ministries and the Boys and Girls Club in New Bedford, United Interfaith Action of New Bedford and Fall River, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Providence. She has received the Marian Medal for her years of service to Our Lady of the Assumption Church.

Dr. Robert P. Waxler is being recognized for his endeavors to lead others to more rewarding lives, most notably through the "Changing Lives through Literature" program he co-founded in 1991. This alternative sentencing program that requires certain criminal offenders to read and discuss classic works of literature. In this setting, these men and women acquire a new perspective on themselves and the opportunities they can pursue. The program has now expanded from its initial  home in the New Bedford District Court to courts in a number of states, and England has adopted a modified version.

With financial support from the Massachusetts legislature and the National Endowment for the Humanities, "Changing Lives" has received national and international attention and acclaim. More than 3,500 persons have participated in the program, with studies showing it has had a markedly positive impact on recidivism rates.

Dr. Waxler has also co-founded the Center for Jewish Culture at UMass Dartmouth. He is co-author of Success Stories, a pamphlet published by the U.S. Dept. of Education, and was an editor on Changing Lives through Literature, a 1999 anthology from Notre Dame Press. He and his wife Linda wrote Losing Jonathan, published in 2003, about the death of their son because of heroin addiction. Waxler's most recent work is the 2006 Finding A Voice, published by the University of Michigan Press.

The event will also include a keynote address by Salome Thomas- EL, a nationally recognized educator who has motivated hundreds of inner city Philadelphia students to stay in school and go on to college. Currently, he is the Principal at John F. Reynolds Elementary School in North Philadelphia and the author of the best-selling book, I Choose to Stay. The Walt Disney Company recently purchased the movie rights to the book.

Born and raised in the inner city of Philadelphia, Thomas-EL has been a teacher in the Philadelphia School District since 1987. He received national acclaim as a teacher and chess coach at Vaux Middle School, where his students have gone on to win world recognition as Eight-Time National Chess Champions.

Also appearing at the breakfast will be Candida Rose, a 2005 graduate of UMass Dartmouth who recently released her debut jazz CD, Kabumerikana: The Sum of Me (Golden Rose Music). Rose graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, and a minor in African and African/American Studies. She has performed solos in the National Center of Afro-American Artists' production of Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity," and she has performed with the New England Conservatory's Millennium Choir. The New Bedford Branch of the NAACP gave her an Artistic Service Excellence Award in recognition of her dedication to the community.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the breakfast visit or call 508.999.8008.

Author:  "John Hoey"
Date:  12-Jan-2007
Department:   News & Public Information

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