The Rev. William C. Turner, a 1971 Duke University graduate and a member of one of the first classes to include African Americans, will deliver the keynote address for the university's annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration.
This year's theme, "Praise, Protest & Power: 50 Years in the Making," complements the 50th anniversary of Duke's first black undergraduate students, a nine-month, university-wide commemoration.
The keynote, which is free and open to the public, is at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, in Duke Chapel. Parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage (see map at maps.duke.edu/map/?id=21&mrkId=2963).
Turner is pastor of Durham's Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. He has spent his academic career at Duke, first as a student and currently as a professor. This year's commemoration honors the pioneering achievements of Turner and his peers.
"The growth and development of Duke University in the last 50 years is nothing less than stunning, and the decision to admit African Americans to the student body is no less pivotal. This decision opened the way to far greater inclusion and openness on the campus," Turner said. "The commemoration -- of both Dr. King's legacy and the inclusion of black students -- includes remembering the anguish of the struggle, celebrating the achievement and highlighting lessons to be learned as we move toward a future that can be even brighter and bring greater benefits to our global community."
Turner was the first to integrate Duke's football team as a walk-on player. In addition to earning a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, Turner received a master of divinity degree in 1974 and a doctorate in religion in 1984, both from Duke. He has served the university as assistant provost and dean of black affairs, acting director of the African and African American Studies Department and director of black church affairs. He has taught theology for many years at Duke Divinity School and is now a professor of the practice of homiletics. Over the years, Turner has helped recruit an increasingly diverse student body.
"The trajectory of Rev. Turner's career as a student, administrator and now as a professor seems to so perfectly exemplify the notion of reflecting upon and celebrating the contributions of black students over the past 50 years," said Benjamin Reese, co-chair of the MLK Planning Committee and the vice president for Duke's Office for Institutional Equity. "We feel so fortunate to still have on campus 'the good Reverend,' as we call him, to help us continue the work of building a fully engaged, equitable and respectful community, continuing the work sparked by those early black students."
Learn more about this year's commemoration, including an updated listing of events, at mlk.duke.edu.