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Martin Luther King Day To Be a University Holiday

National holiday to become official University holiday starting January 2013

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December 6, 2012 | by Storer H. Rowley
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Jan. 21, and more campus events are Jan. 28.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University will designate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official University-recognized holiday every year, starting in January 2013.

Northwestern celebrates the day by suspending classes. The University now will make it an official holiday for all students, faculty and staff.

Northwestern will continue to hold a special commemoration and stage events, discussions, lectures, films, music, theater and service projects throughout the week to inspire reflection on King’s life and legacy.

"We're pleased to make this an all-University holiday, while at the same time keeping our tradition of honoring Dr. King and his legacy," said University President Morton Schapiro. "This way, members of our staff as well as faculty and students can honor Dr. King with their families, but we will still have the events commemorating Dr. King that they are encouraged to attend.”

The designation of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, as Northwestern’s first annual University holiday will mean that some of the key events being planned for the commemoration on campus will be moved to Jan. 28, a week later.

Pamela S. Beemer, associate vice president for Human Resources at Northwestern, emphasized that “the underlying purpose of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is something that is very important to the University. It speaks to who we are and what our values are. Making it an official University holiday speaks to a deeper way of honoring our commitment to diversity.

“I am pleased with the addition of this special day as an officially recognized University holiday, and I know that the staff will appreciate the opportunity to honor Martin Luther King and all the things his legacy represents. It’s another step in demonstrating our commitment to work and family.”

Northwestern has made a strong institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion, which is reflected in the creation of a University Diversity Council, various ongoing diversity initiatives around campus and even the University’s Strategic Plan unveiled a year ago. 

Provost Daniel Linzer, who sponsors and actively engages in diversity efforts at Northwestern, stated, “A diverse community is essential to achieve our mission of creating the best possible learning environment and educational experience, because only by exploring issues with people of different backgrounds and viewpoints can we challenge our assumptions, test our ideas and broaden our understanding of the world."

Dona M. Cordero, assistant University provost for diversity and inclusion and director of the Office of Change Management, said, “I am pleased that Northwestern has designated Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, because this now gives staff as well as students and faculty an opportunity to more fully support Dr. King's legacy of service.

“Some might see this as a ‘day off,’ but I would ask that all of us take this opportunity to see how we can make service a part of our everyday lives. One of Dr. King's quotes that is most resonant for me, especially in this challenging time for our country, is: ‘Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?'"

Burgwell J. Howard, assistant vice president for student engagement at Northwestern, praised the decision for the newly designated University holiday, noting it would be welcomed by students, faculty and staff.

“The date shift for the University celebration, to Jan. 28, will allow us to come together as one University community -- students, staff and faculty -- to celebrate the life, lessons and legacy of one of our nation’s greatest leaders,” Howard said.

“For staff, who now will have this day as a University holiday, this will be a great recognition -- not only of Dr. King, but that Northwestern values quality of life issues for its employees and provides the time for staff to engage with their local communities, spend time with family and celebrate along with the rest of the nation,” he said.

“And since Dr. King's birthday happens to coincide with President Barack Obama's second inauguration, it should allow staff, faculty and students who wish to attend the events in Washington, D.C., or even just watch them on TV, the opportunity to witness this.”