2018 Unsung Hero Award Winners Announced

The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee has announced this year’s Unsung Hero Award winners. The awards are presented annually to people who, in the spirit of King’s “beloved community,” have made a positive difference in the lives of others, but who are not widely recognized for their efforts. The categories include community member, student, faculty and staff. Award ceremonies take place during this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on January 28th.
This year’s winners are:

Community member
Chris Burns

Burns is a teacher by day, but after school and during his spare time he volunteers his time as a boxing coach at community gyms, including the West Athletic Center. He has done this tirelessly for more than a decade, at times working with legendary boxer and mentor Ray Rinaldi. Burns himself serves as a mentor to young boxers and helps them learn important lessons inside the ring and out. His nominator writes, “Coach Chris is one of the most dedicated mentors I have met in my life. He does all the this during a regular work week, but he also makes time for national tournaments so that his kids can travel and show off their skills on the national level. He’s fostered many national boxing champions and currently is coaching the top four under-13 boxers in the country. His selflessness and his dedication to the betterment of youth and his community have inspired me to nominate him for this honor. I cannot think of anyone better than him in the Syracuse community to receive this prestigious recognition. Coach Chris embodies the spirit of Dr. King’s ‘beloved community,’ and I truly believe that the positive difference he is making in our community should be recognized. I also believe that all his kids at the gym would be thrilled to see their admired coach receive this award as well.”

Community Members
Arthur Harrison and Ed Beauford

Harrison and Beauford are co-founders of the Faith Hope Community Center. The center serves as a beacon of light for young people, offering boxing and other recreational activities. Since 2014, the Faith Hope Center has run without crucial federal dollars. Thanks to the efforts of both Harrison and Beauford, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, Faith Hope has become a self-funded enterprise. According to their nominator, the center “still manages to serve youth who would not have a safe place to learn and to grow were it not for their steadfast mentorship. What these co-founders have accomplished since 2014 is more worthy of recognition than anything they accomplished before then. At the Faith Hope Center, young people work on anger management and character development, understanding that, as Bobby succinctly reminds them, ‘When you’re wearing gloves, you can’t hold a knife or a gun.’ Faith Hope is the only center that has a staff chef who voluntarily provides food when youngsters arrive hungry and ready to spar; they’re the only center that regularly receives informal, urgent referrals from school administrators and coaches who are concerned that a teen may be wandering into dangerous [psychological] territory. So far, theirs is also a center that can claim that NONE of its participants has lost his life to street violence and that ALL of their participants leave their street habits outside the door and work cooperatively with others once they enter.”

Dominique Donnay

Donnay is a sophomore at the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central (ITC). His mother is responsible for the nomination, and writes “Dominique is an extremely dedicated young man. He works very hard at helping to create change for his community and to create a better educational environment for students of the Syracuse City School District.” According to his nomination, Donnay serves on three Syracuse City School District committees, including the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, which is working to create a strategic action plan for the SCSD. He sits on the Superintendent’s Student Cabinet. He is school leader at ITC for the Food Committee of the SCSD. He serves as the lead student on the committee, and is helping to implement changes to the district school lunch menu to include healthier and more diverse selections. Donnay is also a member of the youth council for the Alliances of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS). In this role, he assists in discussions of issues pertaining to city schools. He’s also taken two levels of AVP (Alternatives to Violence) training, which teach peaceful resolution to conflict. Donnay volunteers at the Butternut Community Police Center and the Science Technology Entry Program (STEP) at Syracuse University. In summing up her nomination, his mom writes, “Dominique is an incredible young man who is a very high achiever. He is passionate about the issues that affect his community, education and his peers. Dominique’s work exemplifies the spirit, life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Keenan Lewis

Lewis is a student at Syracuse University through University College, and is also a deacon at The Promise Land Church. He and his wife are the creators of the “I Know I Can” radio program. The program, which airs on WVOA radio Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., aims to promote positive discussion on a variety of important topics including mental health, education, job resources, budgeting and important community events. Lewis’ mother, who nominated him, says her son “took this lead because he knew it would help the community at large to better their mind set, their way of thinking and to help push the community to a better way of life.” She also notes that “Keenan and his family have coordinated six community events, so the community could enjoy and gather together during the summer. The turnout for the events was in the thousands. They have donated book bags and supplies to families in need, as well as purchasing and delivering groceries to their homes. At Christmas time, Keenan helped more than 70 families with holiday gifts, sends hundreds of cards to service members and their families, and I estimate that in the past three years, he’s helped nearly 400 families with clothing, shoes and household item donations. Keenan is a great man, friend, child, dad, brother, husband and community supporter. He is truly an unsung hero!”

Robert Wilson

Wilson is director of Student Support Services (SSS). SSS works with first generation college students. His nominator says Wilson “works tirelessly to advocate for SSS students and create a culture in the program of ‘unconditional positive regard’ to help students feel socially, emotionally and academically supported. Bob has created an incredibly supportive ‘home base’ on campus for SSS students and helped literally hundreds of first-generation college students earn their four-year degree.” Under Wilson’s leadership, the graduation rate of SSS students is at or is slightly higher than that of the university as whole. Additionally, Wilson volunteers his time as coach for the men’s rugby team and as the director for the Advisor Practitioners Forum (APF). APF is an informal group of academic advisors and counselors that meets several times per semester for networking and professional development.

Purchase Tickets For This Year’s Celebration

Tickets for the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration are now on sale.

Tickets for Syracuse University students are $15 and are available for purchase in-person at the Carrier Dome Box Office, 900 Irving Ave. (Gate B). Students can pay with cash, credit card or their SUperCard Plus (laundry) account. Students may also purchase $15 tickets online with a credit card, or use this online option for one (1) $15 ticket, to be paid with one credit deducted from their SUperCard meal plan account. Students must use their 9-digit MyCuse account number when logging in. Please call the Carrier Dome Box Office for any questions: 888-DOME-TIX.

Tickets for faculty, staff and the general public are $30 dollars. Tickets may be purchased online using a credit card or may be purchased in person—using cash, credit or SU Interdepartmental Order—at the Carrier Dome Box Office. Reserved individual tickets or tables of 10 are available.

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration takes place on Jan. 28 at the Carrier Dome. Keynote speaker is Angela Rye, political commentator for CNN and NPR; former executive director/general counsel of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 112th Congress; principal/CEO of the political advocacy and strategic consulting firm IMPACT Strategies. The event includes dinner, the keynote address, presentation of the Unsung Hero Awards, and student/community performances. Doors open and dinner begins at 4:30 p.m. The formal program begins at 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 17 Deadline to Apply to Perform at MLK Celebration

Perform at the
Sunday, January 28, 2018 at the Carrier Dome

Download form to apply to audition for MLK Celebration

Requests to perform are due by November 17, 2017. Auditions will be held on Thursday, November 30 and Friday, December 1 in the Noble Room at Hendricks Chapel.


Angela Rye Named 2018 Keynote Speaker

Angela Rye, an acclaimed political commentator for both CNN and NPR, will be the keynote speaker for the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Syracuse University on Jan. 28, 2018. The yearly MLK Celebration at the Carrier Dome is the largest university-sponsored event in the United States to honor King’s legacy.

Rye is an attorney and the principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy and strategic consulting firm. A leading political strategist, she is committed to ensuring positive change in the political process by building relationships for corporations, unions, nonprofits and elected officials. She has been interviewed by and provided commentary for CNN, BET, HBO, MSNBC, C-SPAN, SiriusXM, The Washington Post, Fortune, “The Today Show,” “NBC Nightly News,” “Real Time with Bill Maher” and TV-ONE.

“As the new dean of Hendricks Chapel, I’m thrilled with the selection of Angela Rye as the Dr. King keynote speaker for this year,” says the Rev. Brian E. Konkol. “She brings a distinctive and dynamic voice to our event, along with a critical message for our students, faculty, staff and community members. As we continue to build upon the legacy of Dr. King here at Syracuse University and beyond, Angela Rye will inspire us to visualize a better world and motivate us to help bring it all into being.”

In her role as principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, Rye seeks to encourage young professionals in three core areas: economic empowerment, civic engagement and political involvement.

Previously, she served as the executive director and general counsel to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for the 112th Congress. In this capacity, she was tasked with developing the overall legislative and political strategy for the caucus. Previous to working for the CBC, she served as senior advisor and counsel to the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Angela Rye is the 2018 MLK Celebration Keynote speaker.

This year marks the 33rd year for the Martin Luther King Celebration, with the dinner preceding the formal program, which includes Rye’s keynote address, student and community group performances, and presentation of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards, for which nominations will be accepted until Oct. 16.

On Sunday, Jan. 28, dinner precedes the program at 4:30 p.m., with doors opening at 4 p.m. Dinner tickets for SU faculty/staff and the general public will be available through the Schine Box Office on an individual basis ($30) or in blocks of 10 ($300). Cash, credit or interdepartmental ID may be used. All tickets are for general seating.

Student tickets are $15 and may be purchased through a meal plan at dining halls. Students without a meal plan may purchase tickets at the Schine Box Office.

The formal program, which begins at 5:30 p.m., is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Hendricks Chapel at 315.443.5044.

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be available for the event. If you have requests for accessibility and accommodations, please contact the Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services (EOIRS) office at 315.443.4018.

To request dietary or other accommodations, contact Ginny Yerdon at Hendricks Chapel at 315.443.2901 or gyerdon@syr.edu.

Deadline Extended for Unsung Hero Nominations

The Syracuse University Martin Luther King Jr. 2018 Celebration committee is seeking nominations for the Unsung Heroes Awards, which will be presented during the evening celebration in the Carrier Dome on January 28, 2018. The deadline for award nominations has been extended to Monday, Oct. 16. The awards are presented annually to people who, in the spirit of Dr. King’s “beloved community,” have made a positive difference in the lives of others, but who are not widely recognized for their efforts. To be eligible for this award, nominees should not have received widespread recognition or been previously honored for their efforts, and their work should be ongoing and outside their normal job/student expectations

Nominations may be made in any of the following categories:
• Youth/Teen from Onondaga, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga or Cortland counties
• Adult from Onondaga, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga or Cortland counties
• Student at Syracuse University or SUNY-ESF
• Faculty or Staff from Syracuse University or SUNY-ESF

The deadline for submitting nominations is Monday, October 16, 2017.

2018 Unsung Heroes Award Nomination form-click here.

Contact information:
Sylvia Langford, Unsung Heroes Award Committee, stlangford@gmail.com
Ginny Yerdon, Hendricks Chapel, 443-5044, gyerdon@syr.edu

2017 Unsung Hero Award Winners

The Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee has selected the winners for this year’s Unsung Hero Award. The group will be honored at the Jan.29 event, which takes place at the Carrier Dome. Each award winner was nominated by a member of the community, and was carefully considered by committee members.

Shewa Shwani ’18

Shwani is in her junior year at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She is a student ambassador and president of the Food Recovery Network, which works with charitable organizations throughout the city to recover prepared but unused food from dining halls and donate it to those in need. Shwani also organized the inaugural 3k Run for Literacy in Syracuse, which served to draw attention to poverty issues and the refugee population in Syracuse. She draws her inspiration from her mom, who works with local refugees, immigrants and other disadvantaged groups in the greater CNY community, as well as from King himself. Shwani’s nominator says she “truly exemplifies the spirit, life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Shewa is a leader and a doer, and a believer that only light can drive out darkness. It’s what motivates her to participate and host numerous interfaith, multicultural and community development events, while keeping a busy school schedule and a high GPA.”

A. Peter Castro

Castro is a professor of anthropology in the Maxwell School. Castro has several decades’ worth of experience as an applied anthropologist for agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the UN Development Programme and others, working on issues of poverty alleviation, sustainable natural resource management, participatory development and conflict management aimed at helping the world’s poor. His nominator writes, “Applied anthropology is a field that uses anthropological data to solve problems in the modern world. This is the driving force behind Peter’s work. Peter’s commitment is well illustrated by his almost 30 years of service as a consultant for the Near East Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Program, CARE and other organizations in which he has taken a leading role. Receiving an MLK Unsung Hero Award acknowledges his long-time service to African development as an applied anthropologist, particularly with regard to the management of and access to natural resources, and efforts to alleviate hunger and poverty.”

Dr. Robert Fangio
Community Member

Dr. Robert Fangio is a dentist and Roman Catholic deacon. He also volunteers his dentistry skills for Amaus Health Services, which provides free dental care to those in need, including homeless people and those just released from prison. Lacking regular preventive care, patients often suffer pain and health-threatening dental emergencies. Fangio is a supervising dentist at the SUNY Canton School of Dental Hygiene, and also serves as a deacon at Holy Family Church in Syracuse. An accomplished musician, Fangio plays the accordion and serves as a Holy Family cantor. Besides traditional liturgical duties, “Deacon Bob” leads youth and senior groups in social and community service activities. His nominator believes that one particular Biblical passage speaks uniquely to Fangio: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

Vincent Love
Community Member

Love is president of 100 Black Men of Syracuse Inc. The group is committed to the intellectual development of youth and the economic empowerment of the African-American community, by promoting a message of respect for family, spirituality, justice and integrity. Love works as a treasurer in the North Syracuse Central School District, and also serves on the boards of a number of organizations including the Center for Community Alternatives, The Gifford Foundation, Hillside Work Scholarship Connection and Vera House. He also helped to create the Saturday Academy, which works to improve the academic performance by young people in school and better prepare them for success in college and beyond. The program accepts a limited number of 4th- through 8th-grade male and female students without regard to their family’s financial situation. His nominator says that Love not only leads through his governance acumen, “but also by his personal modeling of what service and commitment to helping others is really all about; doing so with an unbridled passion and a pledge that is unmatched in a sustained manner. Through his strong commitment Vincent B. Love represents Dr. King’s legacy as King has stated ‘life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others.’”


1965 Recording of Dr. King at Syracuse University

In July 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the campus of Syracuse University and spoke at Sims Hall. He was introduced by his longtime friend and Syracuse faculty member Dr. Charles Willie. This recording of his speech comes from the Syracuse University Archives.

2018 Unsung Hero Awards Seeking Nominations

Do you know individuals in the Central New York community who have made a positive difference in the lives of others, but who are not widely recognized for their efforts?

Syracuse University is seeking nominations for the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Heroes Award, to be presented at the University’s annual celebration dinner on Jan. 28, in the Carrier Dome. The nomination deadline is Oct. 9. Continue Reading