Union’s Spring Convocation Honors Martin Luther King Jr.

February 02, 2009

Speaker Wayne Meisel urges service and praises Lend-A-Hand Center

Barbourville, KY – Just two days after President Barack Obama challenged the nation with a reminder of “the price and promise of citizenship,” Wayne Meisel called on Union College to “engage in the kind of service the country requires of us at this time.”

Meisel’s remarks came during Union’s spring convocation, held each year in honor of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

As president of the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation in Princeton, NJ, Meisel speaks with authority about youth and service. He has advocated on behalf of youth service movements for nearly 30 years. In 1986, he created the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), which received the President’s Volunteer Action Award from President Reagan.

Meisel was also one of the primary architects of the Americorps program, and was appointed by President George H. Bush to serve with the Corporation for National Service. Time Magazine once named Meisel “one of the top 50 leaders in the United States under 40.”

During his address to Union students, faculty, and staff, Meisel used the words of the late Dr. King, the poet Maya Angelou, and President Obama to deliver an impassioned plea for a commitment to service. 

He noted Knox County’s poor college attendance rate and the fact that 35 percent of the county lives in poverty.

“But something is happening on this campus,” Meisel said, in reference to the college’s outreach and service initiatives offered at no cost to the community.

Those initiatives are supported in part by Union’s Bonner Scholar Program. Union College is one of only 27 colleges in the nation to be awarded the Bonner Foundation program, which provides scholarships for low-income students who want to engage in service as they earn a degree. The program helps Union offer services such as Timeless Tales Tutoring, the Children’s Art Program and the annual Knox County Repair Affair.

Meisel urged the college to deepen its service by doing community-based research that meets community needs, and challenged all colleges and universities “to meet the demands of a new age” by improving access to education and providing an opportunity for students to serve.

Union’s president, Ed de Rosset, used his opening remarks to honor Lend-A-Hand Center and its founders, Peggy Kemner and Irma Gall. He presented them with a formal citation celebrating the organization’s 50 years of work in the Knox County community of Stinking Creek. Meisel also paid tribute to Kemner’s and Gall’s courage and determination, and offered their work as an example of service that creates opportunities even as it challenges.

To learn more about Union College and the Bonner Scholar Program, visit Union at unionky.edu.


Wayne Meisel, Bonner Foundation president, was the guest speaker for Union’s spring convocation.

Union president Ed de Rosset presents Lend-A-Hand’s Peggy Kemner (right) and Irma Gall (center) with a citation in honor of the group’s 50th anniversary.