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MLK SCHOLARSHIPS: UC Davis hosts awards dinner for the first time

By Dave Jones on December 12, 2008 in University News

UC Davis Researcher Improving Wheat

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund, which offers $500 grants to Sacramento-area high school seniors, has scheduled its annual awards dinner for Jan. 15 at UC Davis.

The Office of Campus Community Relations is co-sponsoring the dinner, which is being held at the university for the first time since the event’s inception in 2004.

The sixth annual tribute to the slain civil rights leader comes at a time when two new African American leaders are living up to his legacy: Barack Obama as the new president of the United States and Kevin Johnson as the new mayor of Sacramento.

Also, the dinner is taking place on King’s birthday, when he would have been 80.

“This is divine providence,” said the Rev. Timothy T. Malone, president and co-founder of the Davis-based Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund. “This is happening at an extremely important time in history.”

Obama won on “basically a peace platform,” said Malone, describing this as a testament to King’s teachings. Together, Malone said, the Obama and Johnson victories “really highlight the work of Dr. King and others in the civil rights and human rights movements.”

“And, of course, education is the key, so very important to one’s growth and development. And that’s why we have a scholarship fund.”

Presenting the awards at UC Davis makes them even more special, Malone said, because the venue impresses upon students that they belong at a world-class institution like UC Davis or any other college. He added that the dinner event provides an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the community and the university.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund Award Dinner is scheduled from 5:30 to 9 p.m. in Freeborn Hall. Malone, pastor of the Multicultural Christian Church of Davis, is slated to give the keynote address. The program also includes a performance by the UC Davis Gospel Choir.

Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Rahim Reed, who heads the Office of Campus Community Relations, explained why the university is co-sponsoring the event: “We want these high school students to know about our commitment to diversity and the principles that Martin Luther King stood for.”

UC Davis’ Principles of Community are an example of that commitment, Malone said. They were adopted in 1990, when Larry Vanderhoef served as provost and executive vice chancellor, and reaffirmed in 1996 and 2001, by which time Vanderhoef had moved up to chancellor.

Now, to recognize his long record on diversity, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund plans to give a lifetime achievement award to Vanderhoef, who is stepping down as chancellor in June.

Vanderhoef at times has gone international to forge educational ties and mutual respect among people. He drew controversy for his 2004 trip to Iran, a country at odds with the United States since the Iranian revolution and the taking of U.S. hostages in 1979.

The chancellor returned to Iran last month with a delegation from the Association of American Universities.

“This is a great step in the right direction,” Malone said of Vanderhoef’s latest trip to Iran. “We have to be involved in dialogue.”

Scholarship program

Scholarship recipients are not required to attend UC Davis; they simply must be planning to attend two- or four-year colleges. For the 2009 awards, students had until Nov. 21 to submit their applications; each student was asked for a description of his or her community service, plus a one- to five-page essay.

King figured in most of the essay topic choices. They included: What would King say about President Obama? Has King’s dream been fulfilled? What would King say about the war on terror?

“We realize it’s not a lot of money,” Malone said of the $500 scholarships. “But we wanted to honor King and we really wanted to recognize these students for their community service.”

The 2009 award recipients: Fareeha Amjad, Simrin Atwal and Inderpreet Bassi, all from Pioneer High School, Woodland; Priscilla Lopez, Woodland High School; and Sylviane Njomo, Davis High School.

In addition, Malone said his son Amani of the Davis School for Independent Study will receive a "resilience award," a $500 grant from his parents. Rev. Malone said the award recognizes Amani for "bouncing back from the challenges of life," and having completed two college classes by the time he graduates from the Davis School for Independent Study.

In its first five years, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund has given grants to around 40 local students, or about $20,000 worth of scholarships.

The awards dinner is the scholarship program’s only fundraiser of the year. Malone described the program as “a complete labor of love,” noting that it is “a 100 percent volunteer organization.”

In his public invitation to the dinner, Malone wrote: “Once again, you have the opportunity to help us to recognize outstanding students and help them make their academic dreams come true.”

All previous dinners took place at various spots around Davis. This year, Malone said, he decided to inquire about holding the event at the university where he serves as an interfaith campus minister.

One mention to Chancellor Vanderhoef is all it took, Malone said. “I asked him one time, and he came through. He made it happen.”

In recognition of this new bond between the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund and the university, the fund plans to present special $500 awards to a pair of UC Davis students: Lia Shepherd and Tiffany Wright, both seniors, with their selection based on nominations reflecting character, academics and community service.

Besides Vanderhoef, three other community leaders are due for recognition:

Outstanding Educator—Bruce Haynes, associate professor of sociology, UC Davis.

Outstanding Community Service—Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, former chair of the Davis Human Relations Commission. She is a 1997 graduate of UC Davis, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology.

Outstanding International Peace Leader—Dave Dionisi of the Davis-based Teach Peace Foundation. Last year he secured a $600 grant from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund for the benefit of 10 students in Liberia; in renewing the grant this year, Malone said the scholarship fund is boosting the award to $900.

Tickets and sponsorships

Dinner tickets are $30 each, and sponsorships are available at four levels: $100, $200, $500 and $1,000. Checks should be made payable to “MLKSF” and mailed to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1555, Davis 95617-1555.

For more information, contact Malone at (530) 753-6148 or

Mavis Staples concert honors King’s legacy.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,