By VALERIE LAPOINTE
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) recently recognized the efforts of the University of Mary Washington and President Rick Hurley in last semester’s commemoration of the Freedom Rides with a Congressional resolution.
Lewis was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, and served as the undergraduate commencement speaker for the class of 2011 this past May.
UMW alumnus and former Board of Visitor, Richard Cooper, presented the award to Hurley, and helped the University gain access to Lewis in planning for the event. The presentation occurred at a luncheon at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center.
“I think it’s great that John Lewis initiated legislation that recognizes what President Hurley did with the Freedom Rides presentation,” said Marion Sanford, director of the Multicultural Center on campus. “It was an incredible experience being here and seeing all the resources that the university put forward in order to ensure that this event was acknowledged.”
In the resolution, Lewis honored Hurley and UMW’s efforts to remember the Freedom Riders and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The resolution stated, “…President Hurley led one of the country’s most impressive Freedom Ride programs. From reunions of fellow Freedom Riders, to breathtaking exhibits including a bus from that era, Rick Hurley took one of the most dynamic moments of our past to say to his faculty and students, ‘Look at what we can become together. Look at what we can do.’”
“I was very surprised and moved as the resolution was read,” Hurley said.
The Freedom Rides exhibit received national attention from news organizations like the Washington Post, National Public Radio, PBS, Fox DC, the Richmond Times Dispatch, and the Free Lance-Star, among others.
In reflection, Hurley said that the exhibit was important because it exposed students to the struggles of generations past, really bringing the issues, sacrifices, and accomplishments of the movement and the freedom riders to light.
“It was an extraordinary effort by a great committee and many other members of the campus community,” said Hurley. “I was immensely proud of the professionalism of the display but, more importantly, the message it conveyed.”
During the ceremony, Lewis stated, “Like any leader, he [Hurley] has encountered many challenges, but President Hurley understands that what compelled a diverse group of Americans in 1961 to board southward-bound buses for Civil Rights is the same calling that can inspire minds and change hearts today.”