Goodwin Commencement Honors Congressman & Coach
Goodwin College Honors UConn Coach and Civil Rights Activist with Honorary Doctorates
On Saturday, June 7, at 10 a.m., Goodwin College will hold its 15th Commencement exercises on the grounds of the main campus at One Riverside Drive in East Hartford. In a ceremony overseen by President Mark Scheinberg, the board of trustees, and faculty, graduating students will receive their certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degree in a number of programs. This year’s guest speakers are civil rights advocate U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia and legendary UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun. Lewis’ participation is especially fitting as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Each guest speaker will have the opportunity to address the graduates after receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College.
Often called “one of the most courageous persons [of] the Civil Rights Movement,” Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to human rights. Inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., he joined the Civil Rights Movement, organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and participating in the Freedom Rides. At the height of the Movement, Lewis was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. At 23, he was a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington.
In 1965, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement, leading over 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News broadcasts and photographs of the event helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite myriad arrests and physical attacks, Lewis remained an advocate of nonviolence. He continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and through his participation in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project, adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls.
In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
He was elected to Congress in 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.
He is the recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal, the Golden Plate Award, the Preservation Hero Award, the Capital Award of the National Council of La Raza, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award, and the “Profile in Courage Award.”
Jim Calhoun arrived in Connecticut in 1986, hired to turn around the UConn men’s basketball program. Calhoun not only turned it around, he raised it to one of the nation’s pre-eminent athletic programs.
Calhoun has served the community off the court as well, using his success to champion many causes. He and his wife, Pat, are well known for their philanthropy including the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn and the annual Jim Calhoun Holiday Food Drive, which has raised nearly $1 million to support food assistance agencies that serve families in need throughout Connecticut. In 1998, a $125,000 gift from the Calhouns established the Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiology Research Fund at the UConn Health Center. Since then over $9 million has been raised. The Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic Golf Tournament was launched in 1999 and has since raised millions in support of the endowment fund.
In 2003 and 2004, Calhoun served as celebrity host of “Hoops For Hope” by Coaches vs. Cancer, a program established by the American Cancer Society, raising over $400,000. The Big Y Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride statewide event benefits The Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UConn Health Center.
For many years, Calhoun has been the Honorary Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, which has generated over $4.5 million to fund diabetes research. Calhoun has also served as an Honorary Chairperson/Director for other charitable programs including the Ronald McDonald House Kids Classic Golf Tournament, the Ray of Hope Foundation Golf Tournament, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Children’s Miracle Network, and the “Character Counts” program in Connecticut.