Martin Luther King Jr. awards handed out at luncheon

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 at 6:13 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. awards handed out at luncheon  by Rick Chernicky
Photo: Rick Chernicky

At the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Luncheon on Feb. 23, Edinboro University President H. Fred Walker honored senior Will Speed and Edinboro University’s Frederick Douglass Scholar, Lewis Brownlee. Speed received the second annual Dr. Joseph Laythe Award and Brownlee was awarded the 22nd Annual MLK Jr. Award.

“These individuals have taken Dr. King’s words and legacy to heart. They’ve shown that, at any stage of life, the time is always right to do what’s right. We’re proud of them. We’re proud that they’re members of our community, and we’re proud that we have a ceremony to recognize their accomplishments and their philosophy,” said Presdient Walker in his speech.

The luncheon committee has honored a member of the community for his or her distinguished work and devotion to helping others every February, for the past two decades. Last year, the committee honored Dr. Joseph Laythe by creating a new award in his name. 

Pertrina Marrero, the director of diversity and inclusion at Edinboro, plus chairperson of the luncheon committee, went on to introduce the first award recipient.

As a full-time student and wheelchair basketball player, Will Speed received the Dr. Joseph Laythe Award. Speed visits students in grade school to demonstrate how those in wheelchairs can succeed, while he also works with veterans nationwide talking with them about how they can achieve anything with hard work, said Marrero.

“When I had my motorcycle accident, it really changed my perspective and changed my life. It took a couple years to recover, but after that I started to participate in some wheelchair sports and that led me into water skiing and wakeboarding. With the help of some friends, we developed the ability to wakeboard while still having a disability. A couple years later, we built a program where we taught people with disabilities how to participate in watersports,” said Speed to the audience, after receiving the award. 

Speed continued to discuss how he pursued wheelchair basketball during the winter months, which eventually led him to meet Jim Glatch, the head coach for the wheelchair basketball program at Edinboro. 

“Glatch said, ‘Hey we can offer you an education and we want you to play for our school,’ and that’s what brought me here to Edinboro,” explained Speed.

When asked how he felt about receiving the award, he said: “It means a lot. Dr. Joseph Laythe was a huge inspiration on this campus. It’s an honorable award, and I’m really happy to show diversity in a world where there’s so much hate.”

Marrero then introduced Brownlee to the dining hall.

“Professor Brownlee’s commitment to diversity and education is evident in his daily teachings. He serves as a liaison between Edinboro University and Erie High School for dual enrollment students, [while] enhancing teacher understanding of diversity in the classroom.”

After receiving the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, Brownlee said: “The overall reason I came to Edinboro University was to serve the student population. I have been privileged to serve the student body and [assist in the] academic capacity of teaching diversity, inclusion and multicultural education: to be a certain leader to the student community and to address in my scholarship what Martin Luther King calls, the three evils of society, and that’s the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism.”

Rick Chernicky can be reached at

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