OUS celebrates local leaders, students

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 4, 2024

Part of annual MLK Legacy Awards

On Tuesday, Ohio University Southern honored the legacy of one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders with their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award ceremony that honored local leaders and students.

The legacy award winners were Stacy Murray-Medcalf, who won the Beloved Community Service Award, Amanda Cleary, who won the Alumni Humanitarian Award, Darrell Smith, who won the Drum Major Award and Olivia Brooke Kingrey, who won the Dr. Charles Jarrett Emerging Leader Award.

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The writing contest award winners were Madilyn Smith, of South Point High School, Jazzmyn Bowling, of South Point High School, Owen Frederick, of South Point High School, Sierra Johnson, of Ironton Middle School, Amelia Hall, of Fairland School and Samantha Riedel, of Ironton Middle School.

Robert Pleasant, director of Student Services at Ohio University Southern, welcomed everyone to the event in the Rotunda. He opened up with a quote from MLK — “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

Pleasant said the event was to honor those who had distinguished themselves in service to their communities and that their actions spoke volumes and embodied the essence of Dr. King’s teaching.

“Some of you will know and some of you will never know, but, rest assured, that you are making a profound difference,” Pleasant told this year’s award recipients. “The work you engage in today and in the future will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark for generations to come.”

He congratulated the writing award winners, saying that “your ability and creativity to share Dr. King’s legacy with others is truly commendable. Your efforts have not only been recognized, but will be celebrated this afternoon. Congratulations to you all.”

Instead of having to make a speech in front of the crowd, the award winners had made a video speaking to King’s legacy.

Dr. Joy Shytle, associate professor of instruction at OUS, presented the Beloved Community Service Award celebrates individuals and organizations making significant contributions to the community through compassionate programs and activities, to Murray-Medcalf.

“Dr. King taught us that the value of a person is not dependent on the color of their skin or their religion or their gender. That we all have purpose, we all have an opportunity to spread love and hope and be mindful and considerate of one another,” said Murray-Medcalf said in her video. “I just think that we as a people need to be more in tune with promoting oneness all across the world. Oneness not only here in America, in Lawrence County, in Ohio, but just promote oneness and look at how much better our societies will be when we consider others as well as ourselves.”

Shytle said Murray-Medcalf, in 1992 at the age of 32, enrolled in college to pursue a brighter future. She earned two degrees from OUS and was an active member of the community. Immediately after graduation, Murray-Medcalf found out she had breast cancer. Undeterred, she co-founded The Cause Inc., which promotes health resource awareness, and co-founded God Factor Ministries with her late husband, Larry Medcalf, as well as holding other jobs, working at other non-profit organizations, being an author and certified Christian mental health specialist.

Dr. Yehong Shao-Lucas, professor of mathematics at OUS, presented Cleary, the founder of Third and Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a positive impact in the community through art and collaboration with local organizations, with the Alumni Humanitarian Award goes to an Ohio University Southern graduate demonstrating a spirit of volunteerism and community service. 

“My inspiration to continue Dr. King’s work comes from my love of humans,” said Cleary. “I love the ability for a group of people to come together and for their uniqueness to be able to shine.”

Shao-Lucas said Cleary generously dedicates her time to various local organizations notably through Third and Center, which has done projects like renovating the Ironton Senior Center, collaborating with Impact Prevention, OUS, Collins Career Technical Center and the City of Ironton. Cleary has secured thousands of dollars in grant money for organizations as well as organizing an annual 5K race and hosting an annual concert on the riverfront.

Dr. Teresa McKenzie, Accessibility and Veteran Services coordinator at OUS, presented the “Drum Major” Award, to Smith who co-founded the C.B. Nuckolls Community Center and Black History Museum in Ashland, Kentucky in 2015, which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating local Black history.

The award acknowledges those committed to equity and inclusion efforts, promoting policies, programs or initiatives for equal opportunity and success.

Smith co-founded the C.B. Nuckolls Community Center and Black History Museum in Ashland, Kentucky, which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating local Black history. His advocacy for teaching Black history is evident through exhibits, community engagement and donations to the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center.

“Dr. King was about nonviolence and protest, and his methods, I believe, were the teachings of Gandhi. I remind myself, I relate to Dr. King because I was raised to care for people and to do the right thing as,” said Smith. “Dr. King taught us to love, not hate. And that definitely strengthens the community,” Smith said.

McKenzie said Smith strives to make the museum an “ever-growing and living legacy that enriches all members of the community through knowledge and collective respect.”

The museum grew out of Smith’s Ashland Kentucky Black History Facebook page.

Shannon Frazee, an OUS alumni, present Kingrey with The Dr. Charles Jarrett Emerging Leader Award honors an Ohio University Southern undergraduate or secondary high school student for their commitment to positive change in their campus, school district or community. 

Kingrey is a senior at Dawson-Bryant High School, who emphasized the importance of standing firm in beliefs and understanding the relevance of Dr. King’s words today.
“The work of Dr. King has moved me in many ways,” said Kingrey. “Specifically, a segment about the white moderate and his letter from Birmingham Jail. Dr. King states, ‘Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.’”

Kingrey’s commitment to mental health awareness, community service and promoting positive lifestyles led to her nomination. “I am inspired to continue Dr. King’s work because we are still in need of strong leaders like him. He inspires me to be a better person who fights for equality, peace and love in America,” she said.

Dr. Kevin Deitle, assistant professor of instruction, gave out the awards of the writing contest.

Areas students were challenged to write a short essay or poem inspired by the quotes of Dr. King on his memorial in Washington D.C.