Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders is MLK memorial lecturer

October 27, 1995
Contact: umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Former U.S. Surgeon General M. Joycelyn Elders will deliver the MLK Memorial Lecture at the University of Michigan’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium in January 1996.

Elders, the first African American and second female surgeon general, will speak at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 15 at Hill Auditorium during the University’s two-week commemoration, ”Affirmation Through Action: The Challenge Continues.”

Lester P. Monts, U-M vice provost for academic and multicultural affairs, ”looks forward to Elders’ visit to campus with a great sense of pride.

”As a native of Little Rock, Ark., I’ve known her for many years. Her husband was one of my high school teachers. Beyond that, Dr. Elders’ term as surgeon general and her outspoken approach to dealing with the many health issues in America today are timely and important. I’m certain that her lecture will be one of the major high points of the MLK Symposium. I encourage the campus community to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from one of the nation’s leading health professionals.”

Elders, a pediatric endocrinologist, now teaches at the University of Arkansas Medical School. After graduating from college at age 18, she entered the U.S. Army, where she trained as a physical therapist. She later received a medical degree and a master’s in biochemistry.

She was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Health in 1987, during President Clinton’s term as governor of that state, and while in that post was elected president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers.

She was sworn in as surgeon general in September 1993. During the Senate hearings on her confirmation, Elders stated: ”I want to change the way we think about health by putting prevention first. I want to be the voice and vision of the poor and powerless. I want to change concern about social problems that affect health into commitment. And I would like to make every child born in America a wanted child.”

Elders has never been one to shy away from the controversial, and her advocacy of condom distribution, sex education, abortion rights, and taxes on tobacco and alcohol ultimately led to her resignation from the surgeon general’s post in December 1994.

In addition to the MLK Memorial Lecture, the Symposium will include a performance by the Boys Choir of Harlem at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at Hill Auditorium, and a concert by Grammy- nominated gospel singer Yolanda Adams at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

The Boys Choir of Harlem is marking its 25th anniversary as a group, still under its founding director Walter J. Turnbull, a nationally known educator, conductor and tenor. Its repertoire ranges from classical music to jazz, contemporary songs, gospel and spirituals. The group’s programs include comprehensive music and academic education, counseling and tutoring.

The group has taken eight European tours. In addition to a touring schedule of 80-100 performances each year, the Choir reaches national audiences through numerous television appearances.

Adams recently released her third project for Tribute Records, ”More than a Melody,” following on her award- winning releases of ”Through the Storm” and ”Save the World.”

Adams admonishes her listeners to ”never underestimate where I’m going, because just when you think I’m going off the deep end into the jazz thing, I might come right back and shock you with stone traditional.”

An elementary school teacher before entering the music field, Adams currently is working to establish a children’s fund that will shelter, feed and education under-privileged youth.

Other Symposium highlights include ”Acting on the Dream,” an afternoon of community service learning for students, faculty and staff at various local community-based agencies; a series of campuswide panel discussions; the Black Student Union’s annual Unity March; and a host of events—ranging from performances and films to workshops and discussions—sponsored by campus units and organizations Jan. 12-26.

Michael Jones-Coleman, symposium coordinator, says that ”the MLK symposium planning committee and my colleagues in campus units have once again worked tirelessly to develop an exciting series of programs in commemoration of Dr. King that will engage the campus and local communities. Traditionally, more than 50 MLK Symposium events are held on campus.

”I have already begun receiving phone calls from members of the greater community who are planning to join us for several events this year,” says Jones-Coleman, who is coordinator for communications and public affairs in the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic and Multicultural Affairs. ”I am really excited about this year’s symposium.”

Jones-Coleman also notes that Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration events have been spread over a two-week period to reduce competition, making it possible for those interested to attend several programs instead of choosing among two or three scheduled for the same time.

For inclusion in the official 1996 MLK Symposium program guide, events must be submitted to OVPAMA by Nov. 1. A full schedule of events will be published prior to the end of fall term. To register an event or program, or for more information, contact Symposium coordinator Michael Jones-Coleman, (313) 936-1055 or mikejc@umich.edu

Tickets for the Boys Choir of Harlem are available from the University Musical Society, and tickets for Yolanda Adams will be available Nov. 1 at the Michigan Union Ticket Office and other TicketMaster outlets.