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Alumni, Students Honored at Annual Social Justice Awards Ceremony

The fifth annual Social Justice Awards ceremony, part of Dartmouth's Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, will be held on Friday, January 27 at 5 p.m. in Alumni Hall. A reception will follow. The awards were established to recognize alumni, faculty, administrators, staff, student groups, and friends of the College who have contributed significantly to peace, civil rights, education, public health, environmental, or social justice.

Awards are given in three categories: Emerging Leadership, Ongoing Commitment, and the Lester B. Granger '18 Award for Lifetime Achievement. The William Jewett Tucker Foundation established this award in 2002 to honor Granger, the first African American to be nominated president of the National Conference of Social Work. Granger exemplified outstanding social service as a teacher, coach, youth counselor, and Executive Director of the Urban League for 20 years.

Individual award recipients this year are the late Meleia Willis-Starbuck '07, Matthew Wilson '83, Thokozani Xaba '89, Nick Kotz '55, and Grace Paley '98H. Three student organizations, the Darfur Action Group, Outdoor Leadership Experience, and Engineers Without Borders, will also be honored.

Emerging Leadership Award:
Meleia Willis-Starbuck '07
Meleia Willis-Starbuck '07


Meleia Willis-Starbuck '07

A sociology and African and African American studies double major, Willis-Starbuck had a profound concern for others' needs and for social justice at Dartmouth, in her home community, and throughout the world. As a high school sophomore, she traveled to Cuba to study its health care and education systems, and to deliver donated medicine, books, and clothes. Willis-Starbuck also traveled to Vietnam, where she cultivated strong beliefs regarding the need for tolerance and diversity. In high school, she volunteered at a meal program for the homeless and worked at Berkeley Youth Alternatives, where she led a nutrition class for low income youth.

Willis-Starbuck died on July 17, 2005, at age 19 in her hometown of Berkeley, California. She was the victim of a shooting near a dormitory at the University of California at Berkeley. Willis-Starbuck was spending the summer volunteering at Berkeley's Women's Daytime Drop-in Center (WDDC) through the Dartmouth Partners in Community Service (DPCS) program.

Willis-Starbuck sought to establish a long-term relationship between Dartmouth and WDDC. In her DPCS application, she discussed the acute domestic need for aid. "Students frequently travel abroad to do volunteer work. However, it is important to remember that there are so many people that are in need of basic resources in our own communities," she wrote.

In response to the news of her death, President James Wright said, "In just two years at Dartmouth, Meleia had already contributed so much to making the world a better place." She had found her niche at Dartmouth as a leader in the Afro-American Society, a mentor in the Dartmouth Alliance for Children of Color, and a member of the Dartmouth Greens.

Ongoing Commitment Award:
Matthew Wilson '83
Matthew Wilson '83

Matthew Wilson '83

Matthew Wilson '83 got his start in politics as a Tucker Fellow in 1981. Through the program, Wilson interned at the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. He is now the National Field Director of Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. (GCI), a political consulting firm that provides field operations for progressive causes, political candidates, public interest campaigns, and non-profit organizations.

Wilson became the Director of the Toxics Action Center in 1989, an organization that assists communities facing pollution and public health issues. Under his leadership, the group helped more than 500 neighborhoods oppose hazardous waste sites, landfill proposals, toxic emissions, and unnecessary spraying of pesticides. Wilson cites Martin Luther King, Jr. as an inspiration and model in guiding his own work to improve the quality of life for Americans.

Ongoing Commitment Award:
Thokozani Xaba '89
Thokozani Xaba '89

Thokozani Xaba '89

Thokozani Xaba has dedicated his life and research to redeveloping South Africa through institution building and capacity development. Since the first non-racial elections were held in 1994, the major challenge for the government of South Africa has been rebuilding  infrastructure and extending it to rural areas.     

Xaba, acting head of the School of Social Work and Community Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, recently completed a project aimed at making the rural government structure more representative. Using studies from the multi-country Traditional Authority Applied Research Network, Xaba and colleagues worked to transform Traditional Authorities-the traditional rural government structure dominated by older men appointed by the traditional leader-into Traditional Councils, constituted of  elected and appointed community members. Thirty percent of the members of the new Traditional Councils will be women.

Xaba also works to establish the causes, nature, and effect of conflict and violence between rural communities with the goal of creating lasting solutions through reconciliation.

Xaba is co-founder and director of McIntosh, Xaba, and Associates (MXA), a company that works on development projects including local economic development, the restructuring of local government, environmental design and management, and tourism.

A government and sociology major at Dartmouth, Xaba holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include power and authority in rural development, youth politics, migration, unemployment stemming from HIV/AIDS, and community development.

The Lester B. Granger '18 Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Nick Kotz '55
Nick Kotz '55

Nick Kotz '55

As a reporter for the Des Moines Register, Nick Kotz won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for his national reporting on the conditions in meat packing plants. The articles, including the disclosure of a 1962 government report, led to the passage of the Federal Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 and the Meat Safety Inspection Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Kotz has won many other journalism awards during his time as a reporter for the Washington Post and as a freelance writer, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award (1966) for stories on political patronage in a War on Poverty program.

Kotz has written five books on politics, social justice, and the civil rights movement. His Wild Blue Yonder: Money, Politics, and the B-1 Bomber (1989), about the military-industrial complex in the purchase of multibillion dollar weapons systems, won the Olive Branch Award for outstanding work on issues of war and peace. His latest book, Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws that Changed America (2005), is a definitive account of the relationship between these two American leaders during the Civil Rights movement.  The book has already won the Iowa Book Award. Kotz's other books include Let Them Eat Promises: the Politics of Hunger in America (1969); The Unions (1972), coauthored with Pulitzer Prize-winner Haynes Johnson; and A Passion For Equality: George Wiley and the Movement (1977) on the social reformer George Alvin Wiley, coauthored with his wife, Mary Lynn Kotz.

Kotz is a distinguished adjunct professor at the American University School of Communications, where he was honored with an award for outstanding teaching.  Graduating magna cum laude from Dartmouth, Kotz did his graduate study in international relations at the London School of Economics, and later served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Lester B. Granger '18 Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Grace Paley '98H
Grace Paley '98H

Grace Paley '98H

Writer Grace Paley is active in antiwar, feminist and antinuclear movements. During the 1960s and 70s, she was secretary of the Greenwich Village Peace Center and traveled to Hanoi and Moscow as a member of peace delegations. In 1978, she was arrested as one of "The White House Eleven" for unfurling an antinuclear banner on the White House lawn and has been arrested on subsequent occasions for nonviolent civil disobedience.  She has described herself as a "somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist."

Paley was born in the Bronx to Ukrainian emigrant parents. Her first collection, The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), features stories of New York life and introduces a semi-autobiographical character who appears in her later collections, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), and Later the Same Day (1985). All three books were gathered in Collected Stories (1994), which was nominated for a National Book Award. Paley has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia and Syracuse Universities, and the City College of New York.

She was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction (1961), the Edith Wharton Award (1983), the Rea Award for the Short Story (1993), and the Vermont Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts (1993). Elected to the National Academy of Arts and Letters in 1989, she was later made the first official New York State Writer.

In selecting Paley for the 1993 Rea Award, jurors said, "Grace Paley is a pure short story writer, a natural to the form in the way that rarely gifted athletes are said to be naturals." Paley received an honorary degree from Dartmouth in 1998, was in residence as a Montgomery Fellow in 2005, along with her husband, the writer Robert Nichols, and was a Brownstone Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies in 2000. Vermont's fifth Poet Laureate, she is a resident of Thetford, Vt. and a familiar figure in the Upper Valley.

Student Groups:

Darfur Action Group

The Darfur Action Group (DAG) was founded to educate the community about the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. DAG has been active in fundraising for the Genocide Intervention Fund and has urged students to get involved on political and economic fronts. Members of the group, led by Anne Bellows '06, Janet Smith '08, Niral Shah '08, and Kelsey Noonan '08, have worked closely with Amnesty International to circulate petitions and write letters to the U.S. government in support of stronger action on the genocide. Hoping to counter economic support for the genocide and the moral complicity of American investors in that support, they have assisted the state of Vermont in its efforts to divest state pension funds from corporations active in Sudan.

The Dartmouth Board of Trustees at its November meeting, based on recommendations by DAG, the board's Investment Committee, and the College's Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, voted to direct the College's Investment Office to avoid investments in six companies -in which the College does not currently hold stock-deemed to be directly complicit in genocide in Darfur. DAG hopes that the success of the campaign at Dartmouth will compel other institutions to re-evaluate their own investment policies, thereby pressuring Sudanese governments to take action against the genocide.

Engineers Without Borders

Dartmouth's student chapter of the national organization Engineers Without Borders (D-EWB) is one of only 26 student chapters in the United States. In 2003, a group of engineering students led by Tico Blumenthal '02 established the chapter to integrate their service learning into the engineering curriculum and to apply engineering skills to problems in the developing world.

The most recent project completed by D-EWB took place in Nyamilu in the Migori district of Kenya this past summer. The community of Nyamilu relies on rain water and water collected from streams for drinking, cooking, and washing. Outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and diarrhea are common there. In response to the need for clean drinking water and water for small-scale agricultural irrigation, D-EWB designed and installed a machine-dug well and installed a solar pump that will draw water from deep in the well.

D-EWB was recently approached by an engineer in Ascutney, Vt. to help on a project organized by the Urban Institute to design a water system in Tajikistan. Comprised of non-engineering and engineering students and both undergraduate and graduate students, D-EWB is focused on improving water systems throughout the world-an issue that doctors believe is critical to global health efforts.

Outdoor Leadership Experience

The Tucker Foundation's Outdoor Leadership Experience (OLE) is a mentoring program for regional youths that teaches self-reliance, teamwork and respect through outdoor challenges. Piloted by Rachel Goldwasser '01 and Camilla Campbell '01 in West Lebanon, NH at the Lebanon Housing Authority in 1999, OLE moved to the Indian River Middle School in Canaan, NH in 2001 and expanded to Mascoma High School this year.

By teaching outdoor skills in a safe space, OLE seeks to build self-esteem, foster group dynamics, and develop leadership skills. Over 100 Dartmouth students are involved in OLE, where they share outstanding qualities in creativity, outdoor experience, and education, teach hiking, cross country skiing, canoeing, fire building, shelter building, and outdoor cooking. Last year Dartmouth students led hiking trips on Gile Mountain, skating on Occom Pond, and trips to the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vt.

By Lauren Lotko '06

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08