Rice honors Martin Luther King Jr. at annual vigil

Each year, the Rice community gathers to honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with a vigil led and organized by the Black Male Leadership Initiative.

Jan. 19, the Rice Memorial Chapel was once again filled with Rice students, faculty and staff. “Keeping the Dream Alive” was the theme of this year’s vigil, which was introduced by Rice President David Leebron and William Edmond, assistant director of multicultural affairs.

Keynote speaker Reginald DesRoches

Keynote speaker Reginald DesRoches addressed the crowd at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. vigil Jan. 19. (Photos by Jeff Fitlow)

Keynote speaker Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering and incoming provost, testified to the need for continuing to recognize and remember the struggles of the civil rights era — and the hopes they inspired.

“While we have done well at Rice, we can always do better — and the challenges our students face persist, particularly students of color,” DesRoches said before relating a recent story of a Rice senior who was hesitant about pursuing her Ph.D. in engineering as a woman of color.

With so few other people like her in the program, she felt like she didn’t belong. Though DesRoches admitted it would probably continue to seem this way throughout graduate school, he told the senior it was important to persist — not just for herself but for others who may follow.

William Edmond, assistant director of multicultural affairs, thanked the BMLI for organizing the evening's service.

William Edmond, assistant director of multicultural affairs, thanked the BMLI for organizing the evening’s service.

“One day, there’ll be a young black or brown student that decides that they can in fact do it just because they see somebody like you getting her Ph.D.” DesRoches said.

Persistence is key, another young engineering major told the audience.

“Life for none of us has been a crystal staircase, but we must keep moving and we must keep going,” McMurtry College junior David King said. “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving forward.”

A reception was held in the Rice Multicultural Center following the vigil, which included a beautiful rendition of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by Rice’s Melodious Voices of Praise.

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.